Care plan for Alps shooting orphans
Two sisters orphaned when their parents and grandmother were shot dead while on holiday in the French Alps nine months ago can be brought up by relatives, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Baker has approved a plan for Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli to be cared for by two members of their extended family following a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
He has announced his decision in a statement after analysing issues surrounding the girls' welfare and hearing evidence from social workers and police.
The girls' father Saad, mother Ikbal, Mrs Al-Hilli's mother Suhaila al-Allaf and French cyclist Sylvain Mollier were murdered by a gunman on a remote mountain road near Annecy in September 2012.
Zainab, then seven, was badly hurt and Zeena, then four, escaped without injury after apparently hiding behind her mother's skirt. The girls and their parents had lived in Claygate, Surrey.
Mr Justice Baker has said the girls can be named in media reports but he has ruled that any detail of their whereabouts must remain secret.
"I am authorising publication of (a) short summary of my decision ... including the names of the girls," said Mr Justice Baker in the statement. "However, reporting of any further detail of the circumstances of the girls and of the arrangements for their care remains prohibited."
The judge added: "It is plainly in their interests to be brought up within their natural family. Such a placement will sustain links with their family background and may help them over time to come to terms with their tragic loss."
He said the girls would be subject to police protection.
Mr Justice Baker said a line of inquiry being pursued by French police investigating the shootings had been the possible involvement of a brother of Saad, Zaid Al-Hilli. The judge said Zaid Al-Hilli had been assigned the status of "suspect", arrested, interviewed and released on bail.