LONDON - A couple looking after two sisters who escaped unharmed when their parents were shot dead in the French Alps want to live permanently in Britain with the children, a court heard Monday.
The couple, who have not been identified but who are related to Zainab and Zeena al-Hilli, have made a residency application, said High Court judge Jonathan Baker.
Iraqi-born Saad al-Hilli was mysteriously gunned down in September 2012 along with his wife and her mother in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy in southeast France.
His two daughters, aged seven and four at the time, survived the gruesome attack but French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, apparently an innocent bystander, was also killed.
The Hilli family lived in Claygate, a leafy suburb outside London.
Judge Baker said it would be "manifestly" in the youngsters' best interests if they could be allowed to stay in Britain with the couple.
He gave brief details of the couple's residency application in a written ruling, after analysing issues surrounding the girls' welfare.
"(The couple) are making an application which would enable them to live permanently in this country. I emphasise that this is not a matter for me but, rather for the immigration authorities," the judge said.
"It is, however, appropriate for me to state that it would manifestly be in the best interests of the girls for a way to be found for them to continue to live in this country with (them)."
Baker made orders appointing the couple the girls' "special guardians".
And he praised the couple for the "dedication" they had shown, adding: "I commend them for all that they have done, and all that they are going to do in future, for the benefit of the girls.
"Inevitably, there have been occasional difficulties and disagreements, only to be expected in a complex case, particularly given the specific risks arising here.
"But the difficulties and disagreements have been addressed and overcome."
Police have put forward a number of theories for the killing, in particular the possibility of an inheritance dispute involving Hilli's brother Zaid, who was arrested by British police in June.
He was subsequently released and has protested his innocence.