Walker's horror at massacre scene

A walker has described his horror on arrival at the remote spot where a British man was murdered alongside his wife and mother-in-law in a shooting spree in the French Alps.

The 41-year-old man, named only as Philippe D, recalled he was unable to rouse seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli who survived the ordeal, believing she was dead as she lay on the ground close to the family car.

He said the carnage in front of him resembled a scene from a film and he described an eerie silence in the secluded car park where four people were blasted to death.

The witness told Le Parisien newspaper that he set out with two friends last Wednesday afternoon to go walking.

As they drove up a hill in the Combe d'Ire forest, near Chevaline, they were met by a "panic-stricken" British cyclist making his way down from the murder scene.

He recalled that the cyclist, a former member of the RAF, tried to explain in bad French what lay up ahead and wanted to call for help.

Mr D continued up the hill to the car park where he saw the bodies of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his dentist wife Iqbal and Mrs al-Hilli's mother in their bullet-ridden BMW.

A fourth body, that of Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack, lay on the ground. Zainab was lying by the car.

"I immediately understood," he said. "I approached the car. I did not touch anything but I saw that there was nothing that could be done. There was no sign of life."

Speaking of Zainab, he said: "She did not respond when we addressed her. I clapped my hands but she did not react. I even spoke a few words of English because I saw that the car had a British number plate but nothing happened. As far as I could tell, she was dead."