A six-year-old girl returns to Britain more than three years after she was snatched and taken to Pakistan. The abduction, by her father, could influence her whole life, an expert tells Channel 4 News.
Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson arrived back at Manchester airport on Friday after vanishing in November 2009 when she went to stay with her father, Razwan Ali Anjum. The former insurance salesman said he was taking Atiya to Southport. Instead he took her to Lahore, Pakistan, and told Gemma Wilkinson – Atiya’s mother – that she was “never going to see Atiya again”.
Anjum is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK for refusing to reveal his daughter’s whereabouts, despite a court order. Just last month Gemma Wilkinson, 32, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, launched a fresh appeal for information on her daughter’s whereabouts. Ms Wilkinson has described her daughter’s homecoming as “the best Christmas present ever”.
Alison Shalaby is from the charity Reunite International, which offers support to those affected by parental child abduction. Her own daughter was snatched by her Egyptian father. I asked her about what difficulties mother and child face after so long apart.
She told Channel 4 News: “There are going to be challenges because the little girl has been through this twice now – first the abduction from England to Paksitan, and everything that goes with that in her life.
We have spoken with adults who were abducted as a child – they say it’s something they never get over. It influences their whole life. Alison Shalaby
“Now she’s got a huge change again in her life. But hopefully with a mother’s love and the assistance of the immediate family, and help from professionals, they’ll be able to form a bond again.
“We have spoken with adults who were abducted as a child – they say it’s something they never get over. It influences their whole life.”
Mr Anjum was handed a fourth consecutive jail term by a high court judge in April after he refused to reveal where his daughter was. Mr Justice Moor imposed a 12-month prison sentence after he found him in contempt of an order instructing him to disclose Atiya’s whereabouts.
He said Anjum, who is in his late 20s, would not be eligible for release until he had served at least six months. Judges have previously imposed jail terms of two years, 12 months and another 12 months in the hope that Anjum would provide information. Judges re-jailed Anjum as each sentence neared its end.
Ms Wilkinson, a former charity worker, took legal action in an attempt to force Anjum to reveal the crucial details.
Anjum, who represented himself at the latest court hearing, indicated that Atiya was in Pakistan or Iran but said he did not know her exact whereabouts. Mr Justice Moor said he was sure Anjum was lying.
The judge said: “I am certain that he is in contempt. It is absolutely absurd for him to suggest that he does not know the whereabouts of his daughter and he cannot contact her. I am certain he is lying.”
Another judge has previously said the case was “as bad a case of child abduction as I have encountered”.
It is thought Atiya was found after police published a computer-generated e-fit image of what Atiya would look like now – a day before her sixth birthday in November.
Ms Wilkinson said:”It’s been an absolute nightmare. As to her whereabouts we know nothing. We’ve had no contact. I’m worrying every day, every single day. Everything is affected by it. When I close my eyes I see her.
“I say goodnight to her every night before bed. I pray she’s okay. We don’t have any proof that she’s okay, there is no proof she is still alive. It’s been discussed that she could have been sold, but I don’t want to believe it.
“She was so funny. She was a little bundle of joy. She loved her lipgloss and handbags – as soon as she got hold of my make-up bag, everything in it was hers. We just want her home.”
Her “on-off” relationship with Anjum ended in 2008. “He’s not prepared to back down – he’s not prepared to work with the police,” she said at the time.