Alps slayings echo murder of town couple

Sydney Broderick
Sydney Broderick
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CHILLING parallels have been drawn between the grisly killings of a British family in the Alps and the slaying of a Hartlepool couple who were also gunned down in France.

The murder of three members of a family in their car near Annecy, in the French Alps, echoes that of town couple Sydney and Avis Broderick, who were savagely killed by a mystery gunman while on holiday in the South of France in August 1977.

Mr and Mrs Broderick, who lived in the town’s Linden Grove, were both blasted in the head three times in their Ford Cortina after they took a detour through a forest and parked to have a rest in Le Lavandou, nearly 300 miles south of the location of the latest tragedy.

Despite extensive investigations by French police, Interpol and Scotland Yard, their murderer was never found.

Now the killings of British-Iraqi family Saad al-Hilli, 50, from Surrey, his wife and mother-in-law have brought a chilling reminder of the tragic loss of the town couple.

Mr al-Hilli’s four-year-old daughter was found alive in the BMW estate underneath the bodies of her relatives about eight hours after the massacre, which also saw French cyclist Sylvain Mollier shot dead.

The al-Hillis’ seven-year-old daughter was in a medically-induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital after being repeatedly beaten around the head and shot in the shoulder in Wednesday’s attack.

The killings of Mr Broderick, 62, who was service manager at Ewart Parsons garage, in Stockton Road, and his 60-year-old wife, who set up the town branch of the National Council for Women, puzzled police in France, who failed to solve the case after following up a number of leads.

Initial inquiries began in Marseilles and later spread throughout the French Riviera.

Detectives came up with a number of possible motives, including that the gunman was a maniac with a hatred for tourists.

Despite initial suspicions that cash and papers appeared to be missing from the couple’s car, leading police to first suspect robbery as a motive, red-faced detectives eventually stripped the Ford Cortina and found the money and passports hidden under mats.

Scotland Yard became involved in the investigation and a new lead led to a warrant being issued for the arrest of an Irishman who deserted from the Foreign Legion the year before, but he was never found.

An Italian cook thought to have followed the Brodericks from a restaurant the night they were shot was charged with the murder. But he was later cleared after his girlfriend provided an alibi.

The handling of the case was criticised by then-town MP Ted Leadbitter, while a postcard from the couple was received by a family friend, days after they were killed.

The murder file remained open for seven years but the brutal killer was never found.