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Family feud part of French Alps murder investigation

British authorities passed along the information to their French counterparts, looking into the deaths of four people Wednesday.

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French gendarmes block access to a road to La Combe d'Ire in Chevaline near Annecy, southeastern France, September 7, 2012. Two girls, apparently on a camping holiday from Britain with their parents, were under police protection in France on Thursday after three adults thought to be their mother, father and grandmother, were shot dead in a car on a road in the Alps.

Robert Pratta/REUTERS

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Investigators trying to solve a gruesome multiple murder in the French Alps are looking into a British police tip-off that the man shot dead in his car on Wednesday along with two women was involved in a financial feud with his brother.

Police sources have identified the dead car driver as Saad al-Hilli, an Iraqi-born Briton, and are working on the theory that he was holidaying in the picturesque Annecy region with his wife and two daughters and their grandmother.

Two girls, whose ages of around 8 and 4 match the account that neighbors in Britain give of Hilli's family, survived and are under police protection in hospital. A local cyclist who was passing along the forest road near the village of Chevaline was also shot dead.

"We received information from the British authorities about a money dispute between two brothers of this family," state prosecutor Eric Maillaud told Reuters on Friday. "It's an interesting line of investigation, but one among many."

He said Hilli's brother had gone to see British police, but that he did not know what he had said, and that French police would travel to London.

Maillaud also said investigators had gleaned little from a "moving" chat on Friday with the 4-year-old, who was being looked after at a psychiatric hospital in Grenoble after spending eight hours hiding under bodies in the car, apparently too scared to move, while police kept it sealed to await a forensics team.

The older girl, believed to be her sister, was badly beaten and was due to undergo a second operation in Grenoble for severe head injuries.

 FRIENDLY AND NORMAL

Shocked neighbors of Hilli in rural Surrey, south of London, described the family as friendly and normal.

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