Bomb squad checks home of Britons slain in France
CLAYGATE, England (AP) — A bomb squad made a brief appearance at the suburban home of a British-Iraqi couple slain in the French Alps as investigators on Monday kept searching for clues to the brutal killing.
Neighbors were evacuated and a broader security cordon was installed as bomb disposal experts went to Claygate, a village 17 miles (27 kilometers) southwest of London, after what local police described as "concerns around items found at the address."
But the bomb squad soon left and the cordon was lifted. Surrey Police, who are working with French homicide investigators, said in a statement that the items found were not hazardous. They did not elaborate.
Investigators on both sides of the English Channel have spent nearly a week trying to trace the perpetrators of a shooting rampage that killed Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, a woman believed to be his mother-in-law and a French cyclist.
The couple's daughters, 4-year-old Zeena and 7-year-old Zaina, survived the shooting.
Zaina, who was shot in the shoulder and severely beaten, on Sunday emerged from a medically-induced coma. Depending on what she remembers, the 7-year-old could prove crucial to the investigation.
The extreme violence used in the slayings — the adult victims were each shot twice in the head, among other injuries — has led to speculation about the motive behind the crime.
Authorities are probing whether an alleged financial dispute between Saad al-Hilli and his brother Zaid played a role. The Associated Press has been copied in on a message from Saad describing tensions between the two over their late father's assets, but Zaid has denied any conflict to police.
The explosives alert Monday came as officers began searching buildings in the property's garden, prompting the evacuation of several adjacent houses. It sent a ripple of concern through Claygate, a small community surrounded by woods, farmland and a golf course.
"It's quite disturbing," said neighbor Brian Salmon, 74.
The search continued after the bomb squad left. Later Monday, Surrey Police said they were using power tools to crack open a safe at the address.
Associated Press writers Raphael Satter and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.