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'Heads with bullet holes': Ex-pilot who found multiple murder victims in Alps tells of horror

Norbert Falco / Le Dauphine via EPA

Flowers lay at the site where four people died in a shooting at a parking in Chevaline, near Annecy Lake, France, on Sept. 8.

LONDON -- A former British air force pilot who discovered the bodies of four people on a road in the French Alps has told how he slowly realized what he initially thought was an accident was actually a horrific multiple murder and how he could be in serious danger.

Brett Martin was cycling on the road near Lake Annecy on Sept. 5 when he discovered 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 cycled passed Martin, from Sussex, England, earlier on the road.

In an interview with BBC News, Martin said he feared the shooter might still be nearby, but took actions that were later said by French authorities to have saved the life of the al-Hillis' daughter Zainab, 7, who was shot and beaten in the attack.


Martin told the BBC the first thing he saw as he approached the scene was a bicycle lying on its side and Zainab, who he initially thought was playing. He then realized she had serious head injuries and was 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."

'A lot of blood'
He moved her out of the path the car, which was still going with its wheels spinning, before turning to the cyclist, before quickly deducing he was dead.

Martin then went to switch off the car’s engine and started to wonder if holes in the windows of the car had been made by bullets.

4 slain in French Alps; girl, possible witness, survives

"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.

But it was only when he moved round to the back of the car, that the situation became clear.

Martin said it looked like a scene from a Hollywood movie.

"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.

Girl, 4, hid for eight hours in car filled with corpses after mystery shootings in France

'Crazy person in the woods'
Martin then looked around, fearing a "crazy person in the woods" might by firing from a distance with a high-powered rifle.

Despite this danger, he tried to call the emergency number on his cellphone, but was unable to get a signal and had to go for help.

Zainab came out of a medically-induced coma on Sunday and will be questioned by police as soon as she is fit.

7-year-old survivor of French Alps slayings speaks to police

Her four-year-old sister sister Zeena -- who was found hiding in the car hours after the shooting -- also survived. Martin told the BBC that it did not "surprise me in the least" that the girl was not found sooner because she was hidden beneath the bodies of the two women in the car.

Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images

British police personnel carry out a search of the front garden at the home of Saad and Iqbal al-Hilli in Claygate, in Surrey, south-east England, Thursday.

French investigators, who said about 25 gun shells had been retrieved from the area, traveled 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.

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French prosecutor Eric Maillaud told reporters at a Surrey police station they believed "in all likelihood the origins, causes and explanations are here in this country."

NBC News' Ian Johnston and Reuters contributed to this report.

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