LONDON- Brett Martin, a former British air force pilot, discovered the bodies of four people on a road in the French Alps.
NBC News reports on how he slowly realized what he initially thought was an accident was actually a multiple murder and how he might have also been in danger.
Martin was cycling on the road near Lake Annecy on September 5th when he found the bodies of Saad al-Hilli, 50, an Iraqi-born engineer, his wife Iqbal, a 47-year-old dentist, and and her mother in a BMW car, along with French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45. Mollier had passed Martin earlier on the road while cycling.
Martin had an interview with BBC News in which he explained that he feared that the shooter might have still been nearby when he found the bodies. Even though he was scared of that possibility, Martin took action. These actions were said, later by French authorities, to have saved the life of al-Hillis’ daughter Zainab, 7, who was shot and beaten in the attack.
Martin told BBC that the first thing he saw when he approached the scene was a bicycle lying on it’s side and Zainab, who had serious head injuries and covered in blood.
“She was prone on the road, moaning, semi-conscious and she was lying in a position that was in front of this car with its wheels spinning,” Martin told the broadcaster. “She was very severely injured because she was in and out of consciousness.”
Martin quickly removed her out of the path of the car, which had it’s wheels still spinning. He then proceded to check on the cyclist, but realized he was already dead. After checking on the cyclist, Martin went to turn off the ignition in the car and wondered if holes in the windows were bullet holes.
“It became fairly evident that the injuries of the people inside didn’t match what one would think people would be like from a car accident,” he said.
When Martin went around to the back of the car, it was immediately made clear to him that it was a gun crime.
“If somebody had said ‘cut’ and everybody got up and walked away that would have been it, but unfortunately it was real life,” he told the BBC. “It became quite obvious now, taking stock, that it was a gun crime. Now I was getting a little bit anxious.
“There was a lot of blood and heads with bullet holes in them,” he added.
After seeing the bodies in the car, Martin looked around fearing that there might be a “crazy person in the woods” with a high-powered rifle. He then tried to call for help but his phone could not get signal, so he had to go for help himself. Him going for help, helped save Zainab’s life. She came out of a medically-induced coma on Sunday and will be questioned as soon as she is fit.
Zainab’s younger sister, Zeena, was also found alive in the back of the car. Martin says that it did not suprise him in the least that Zeena had not been discovered sooner, since she was hiding underneath the bodies of the two men in the car.
French investigators say that about 25 gun shells had been retrieved from the area. The same investigators travelled to Britain on Thursday to liaise with British detectives who have been searching the al-Hilli family home in a leafy village in Surrey, south of London.