Islamabad: Police in Pakistan have set up a special team to find and arrest the father, stepmother and uncle of a 10-year-old girl who was found dead in the UK on Aug. 10, officials said on Wednesday.
Sara Sharif was found dead at her home in Woking on the southern outskirts of London after police were called from Pakistan by her father, Urfan Sharif. Urfan Sharif, 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother Faisal Malik, 28, are wanted for questioning over Sara’s death.
The day before Sara’s body was discovered, police believe the three suspects traveled to Islamabad with five children aged between 1 and 13. An autopsy did not establish a cause of death but did show that Sara had “multiple and extensive injuries, which are likely to have been caused over a sustained and extended period of time,” a UK police statement said.
Urfan and his family come from a small village, Kari Janjeel, in Jhelum.
“We have constituted a special team to arrest the suspects, but so far there are no leads in this case,” Inspector Mudassar, a spokesperson for Jhelum Police, told Arab News.
He confirmed that Urfan, along with his partner and brother, had arrived in Jhelum from the UK, but “they all are in hiding now.”
“We cannot say anything about the case unless we arrest the suspects and investigate them,” he said.
Mudassar said police had called Urfan’s brother, Imran Sharif, for questioning. Imran had said he did not know his brother’s whereabouts and that he might have gone to Mirpur in Azad Kashmir where his in-laws live. Imran is not a suspect in the case.
Jhelum police have also tried, unsuccessfully, to trace Urfan and his wife in Mirpur through local officials.
“We have been trying our best to locate the suspects as early as possible and we have been utilizing all available resources for it,” Mudassar said.
The mother of the deceased girl, Olga Sharif, told the UK press she married Urfan, 41, in November 2009, but the marriage ended in 2017. Her ex-husband was awarded full custody of both Sara and her 13-year-old brother in 2019. Since then, Olga claims she has only been allowed to see her children twice.
Following the investigation into Sara’s death, Inspector Nisar Ahmed and his team went to Urfan’s village of Kari Janjeel but learned that the family left in the 1990s and never returned.
“Urfan’s brother lives in Jhelum city now and the police have been questioning him to get any evidence or clue in the case,” Ahmed told Arab News over the phone.
“This case doesn’t lie in our jurisdiction, therefore we have stopped following it.”
Urfan and UK police
It was also revealed that Surrey Police have had dealings with Urfan in the past, with the family being known to authorities and interactions having gone “back some years.”
Det. Supt. Mark Chapman said: “Surrey Police’s contact with the family has been on a limited basis. It’s been on a historic basis. And that goes back some time.”
However, Chapman noted that the case would not be referred to the police watchdog, and added that it “doesn’t fulfil the criteria to alert the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
He said: “We’re looking to hear from anybody who lived in the area who regularly saw Sara going about her daily routine.
“Any parents who may know of Sara from school or other regular activities. Any parties that might have gone on out of school, or anyone who had any form of contact with her really, no matter how insignificant it might seem.”
Children’s social care campaigner Chris Wild told the BBC that Sara would have been “on the radar” of authorities, owing to the knowledge of the family by the local police and council.
He also pointed out that she may have been the subject of a child protection order, and that local authorities may have been tipped off about safeguarding concerns.