In September, 7-year-old Zainab al-Hilli and her sister Zeena, 4, were orphaned in what has become known as the Alps Massacre. A gunman allegedly killed the girls’ father, mother, and grandmother, as well as a passing cyclist. The girls’ extended family is now wondering why the two girls aren’t allowed to come home.
Family friends have said they would adopt the girls, but family and relatives now feel the children have been “kidnapped by social services,” reports claim.
Zainab was shot in the shoulder and sustained injuries to the head. Zeena was found unharmed hours later hiding beneath her mother’s body in the back of the family car. Allegedly, the 4-year-old remembers her mother unbuckling her seat belt when the firing began, yelling at her to hide. Zeena hid so well, in fact, that police did not discover her for nearly 8 hours after the crime was discovered.
The girls have returned to Britain, where they had lived with their family in Surrey. While Zainab has been making a good physical recovery, the girls have had limited contact with their family and friends, and are instead staying with a foster family.
Their great-uncle, Ahmed al-Saffar, said the sisters had been distressed recently on parting from their aunt Fadwa al-Saffar, their mother’s sister, after a brief recent visit. He was also present at the visitation.
He noted: “They were crying, asking ‘why are our meetings so short? We want to be with you forever’. We were devastated by it.”
Al-Saffar fears the handling of their situation by the courts has added to the trauma the girls have already faced.
“They would like to be with their family,” he said. “We see their suffering after the pain and loss of their parents and how this then continues in their separation from the one they love to be with, which is their auntie.”
While he describes the appointed foster family as “kind and supportive,” he maintains that the situation is “not satisfactory” and is “getting more difficult.”
He continues, “We would like to have answers to questions about the girls’ future, but they will not respond to our emails and inquiries.”
Court orders obtained by Surrey county council protect the girls from publicity and ban publication of any details that might disclose their whereabouts.
While officials have not determined the reason for the attacks, detective believe it may have been a singular attack by a “lone psychopath,” and that French cyclist Sylvain Mollier may have been the attacker’s primary target. Authorities have confirmed that Mollier had more bullets in him that any other victim, who were all killed by two bullet wounds to the head. There have also allegedly been reports that Mollier was shot first.
Do you think the girls should be returned to their extended family, or stay in foster care?