By Dominic Herbert
Family friend who knew Mr al-Hilli for 20 years fears his internet chatroom attacks on Israel and Jews is reason for Alps murders
The British engineer killed in the French Alps Â¬secretly held extreme anti-Israeli beliefs which could be the key to the massacre that has baffled police, a close friend claims.
To his wealthy neighbours, Saad al-Hilli was a devoted family man. But behind closed doors he is said to have spent hours on his computer bombarding Arabic chatrooms with anti-Israeli posts.
Now one of Saadâ€™s oldest friends believes he and his dentist wife Ikbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila Al Saffar, 74, could have paid a high price for his rants… in an execution by the feared Israeli secret service Mossad.
Tonight Gary Aked, who had known Saad for nearly 20 years, is being -questioned by two Surrey police officers about his explosive new clues to the -killings, which are contained in chatroom and online forum messages posted by Saad showing the dangerous depths of his hatred.
Gary, 52, became a close friend of Iraqi-born Saad after meeting him in 1993 when they worked for the same engineering firm. They even went on holiday together.
â€œHe was a difficult man to get to know, but I did over the years,â€ Gary said. â€œThe one thing that always worried me about him was how vocal he was on internet chatrooms about Iraq and also the Arab-Israeli conflict.
â€œHe would forever be talking about how the Israelis were taking over the world and specifically taking over America. He hated Israeli Jews taking big banks and strongholds in America.
â€œHe thought 9/11 was an inside job by the Israelis to create hatred against the Arabic nations. After 9/11 his involvement in chatrooms increased dramatically. He was very passionate about his beliefs. He didnâ€™t believe the Jews should be in Israel. He thought the land should be Palestinian.
â€œWhen I heard Saad and Ikbal had been murdered my first thought was, â€œWhat has he said? What has he done?â€™ I think itâ€™s possible he has offended someone and Mossad has taken offence and put a hit out on him.â€
But despite Saadâ€™s extreme beliefs, Gary insists his friend was not a terrorist or member of a fundamentalist group and was a man of â€œwords and beliefsâ€, not action and violence. â€œI know that Saad was not a terrorist because he would have never done anything to put his family in danger. He was not a violent person,â€ he said.
Since the shootings, which have baffled both French police and Surrey officers who have searched the familyâ€™s Â£1.5 million home in Claygate, conspiracy theories have ranged from a family feud to Â¬nuclear weapons development, because of Saadâ€™s software expertise and his work for a satellite company.
But Gary dismissed these as nonsense. â€œI would rule out work. He wasnâ€™t into anything nuclear, he wasnâ€™t into any defence contracts,â€ he said.
â€œIn any case he wouldnâ€™t have got the clearance for sensitive defence contracts because of his Iraq background. It was definitely not the cause of his death.â€
Gary says he was startled when his friendâ€™s pro-Arab passion took a new twist during his late nights online a few months ago.
Both men regularly chatted on Skype and Gary recalls Saad recently replacing his profile picture from a photo of his eldest daughter to an image of a bearded Arabic leader.
In April he also posted a web link to an interview conducted by controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, the Lebanese organisation fighting against Israel.
Gary said: â€œSaad didnâ€™t have a problem with Jews generally, just those in Israel. He read the Koran and it was always left open in the front living room of the house. He was guarded about who he spoke to about his beliefs, but he did confide in me.â€
Gary also had access to the family home where Saad went online to post his anti-Israeli rants.
He believes police need to look at his friendâ€™s banks of computers to get to the truth of what happened in France.
He used a rear upstairs room to house four computers and a laptop worth up to Â£20,000 which he used to write his beliefs in Arabic forums. Saad also had a number of other PCs in an outside shed which Gary helped to build.
The chatrooms Saad used were not only a magnet for hate-filled Islamic fundamentalists… but also for opposing forces trying to identify enemies.
Gary believes Mossad â€“ whose secret agents have been responsible for many assassinations â€“ could have been Â¬tracking Saadâ€™s outspoken views. British security services are already said to have put him under surveillance in the 1990s.
Baghdad-born Saad arrived in the UK in the 1970s when his parents fled Iraq and one of his uncles was killed by Saddam Husseinâ€™s henchmen. But he owned land in the war-torn country and often returned.
â€œSaad was incredibly sad that his home city was bombed,â€ said Gary.
â€œAnd he did go back there to live for a short time but it disturbed him that there were Â¬frequently gunshots and deaths. He told me that Iraq would become a third world country. He was pleased Saddam went but he believed an American puppet would take over. He said the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you donâ€™t know. He loved his homeland.â€
In a Skype message to Gary in October 2009, Saad told how he was looking forward to visiting Iraq to try to secure a Â£800,000 property deal, adding fondly: â€œIraq is still warm.â€
But back in Britain, he loathed the countryâ€™s affection for the Royal Family. In a Skype conversation nine days before William and Kateâ€™s wedding in April last year, Saad said: â€œI hope it buckets it down on Friday… so they get drenched.
â€œI was invited to the street partyon our road. My reply was, â€˜On mydead bodyâ€™.â€
But Gary says Saadâ€™s own family meant the world to him. And heâ€™s sure reports of a feud between Saad and his brother Zaid, 53, of Chessington, Surrey, over their fatherâ€™s will are well wide of the mark in the search for a motive.
Gary, who also knows Zaid, said: â€œThey are very different characters, Zaid was the serious older one, the accountant, whereas Saad was more the cheeky chappy one, less serious.
â€œI donâ€™t know about any big feud. Saad was very upset when his father died in Spain a year ago.
â€œHis family involved in this? Â¬Definitely not. His brother? No way.â€
In Skype messages, Saad talks about his heartbreak when his dad Kadhem died in August last year, saying: â€œI canâ€™t seem to come to terms with not going over and seeing him any more.â€
Now Gary prefers to remember Saad as a devoted family man.
He joked that when they first met at an engineering firm, Saad had stolen his then-girlfriend.
He said: â€œSaad was a bit of a ladies man in those days, but it all changed when he met Ikbal. He became a Â¬devoted family man.â€
In a Skype conversation in June 2010, Saad, who did not become a father until he was 42, wrote: â€œHome life is good thanks and the kids are my whole life… I just wish I had them long ago.â€
Gary said: â€œSaad was a workaholic. We went skiing in Italy once but he took his laptop so he could work.
â€œHe never stopped. Everything was about his Â¬family. He wanted his girlsto have the best education, the best upbringing.
â€œHe was fun to be with. He had a cheekiness and sense of humour, a love of life.â€
Now Gary wants the information he has given to police to help them trace his friendâ€™s killers.
â€œI just hope the police find the chatrooms and what Saad has been saying and doing on there,â€ he said.