Sisters orphaned in Alps massacre to be returned to their family
Two sisters orphaned when their parents and grandmother were shot dead in the French Alps are to be returned to their family after 10 months in foster care.
The High Court ruled that Zainab and Zeena al-Hilli should be permitted to live with their maternal aunt, uncle and cousin.
They will remain under police protection, as they have been since the killings last September, as there remains a risk that whoever carried out the “horrific” killings may try and harm the girls again, the judge noted.
Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Ikbal, 47, and the girls' grandmother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were all shot dead in the family’s BMW estate on a remote mountain road near Annecy.
Zeena, then four, hid beneath her mother's skirt where she was found several hours later and Zainab, then seven, was shot in the shoulder and "pistol whipped" but survived.
In a judgement, delivered in private last Friday, Mr Justice Baker said that the girls made it clear they wanted to live with their family, with “whom they have a warm and close relationship” and who are described as “thoughtful, patient and family-oriented”.
The have been attempting for months to get custody of the girls’, and the Mr Justice Baker said that he hoped returning them to their loved ones “may help them over time to come to terms with their tragic loss”.
Although concerns for their safety remain, police do not believe that they are such to preclude them from returning to their family, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Mr Justice Baker, in a public summary of his judgement, said that “for the time being at least” they will continue to receive armed protection.
He also praised that fact that despite the “unique pressures” in the case, their carers for the last 10 months had looked after them with “dedication and devotion”.
Journalists were allowed to attend the two day hearing at the High Court after an application by the Sunday Times.
Surrey Police had opposed the application, claiming that the presence of the media could jeopardise the girls' safety.