Father who abducted his three sons, six, five and three from foster home days before they were due to be adopted ‘smuggled them out of the UK in back of van’
- Imran Safi, 26, snatched Bilal, 6, Ebrar, 5, and Yaseen, 3, from a foster home
- Police believe the father may have smuggled them out of the country in a van
- Total of 16 people have since been arrested in connection with the abduction
A father who abducted his three children from their foster home ‘smuggled them out of the UK in the back of a van’, police believe.
Imran Safi, 26, snatched Bilal, 6, Ebrar, 5, and Yaseen, 3, from a foster home in south London, just before they were due to be adopted before taking them to his red Nissan car and driving off on August 20.
Detectives now believe the father received support from a group of relatives in order to escape the police and smuggle his kidnapped children out of the country.
A total of 16 people have since been arrested and released in connection with the abduction, including Safi’s wife Lubna, 25.
Imran Safi, 26, abducted his three sons from a foster home in south London, just before they were due to be adopted
However this weekend, the father’s brother-in-law Ali Safi refuted the claims that the family knew of his plans and said he last heard from Imran Safi on the morning of the abduction.
He told The Times: ‘He said, ”Look after yourself and look after Lubna.” We had no idea what he was planning.’
The brother-in-law went on to say that Safi ‘did the wrong thing by taking the law into his own hands’.
He added: ‘He did the wrong thing by taking the law into his own hands, but in his eyes the law and everyone else had failed him, so he could not stop what he was doing out of love for his children.’
The three boys’ disappearance has sparked a major investigation involving more than 100 police officers.
It is understood that the boys were due to be formally adopted by a new family -which detectives believe could be a motive for the abduction- when they were taken from their foster home.
Safi, who is originally from Afghanistan, is suspected of threatening the children’s foster carer at knifepoint before taking the three boys to his red Nissan car and driving off.
The three boys Bilal, 6, Ebrar, 5, and Yaseen, 3, had been staying at a foster home in south London
Last month police released an image of a man, pictured in a red Nissan Qashqai, registration PK13 WFO, at the time of the disappearance, who they would like to speak to
Neighbours told last month how the children’s foster mother had moved out of her home out of fear Safi might return following the harrowing abduction.
Detectives fear the children may already be abroad, despite having circulated their father’s mugshot and details to all ports and borders as they attempt to close off escape routes.
In September, police released an image of a man who was the passenger in the red Nissan Qashqai, registration PK13 WFO, at the time of the children were taken, who they would like to speak to.
They also offered a £20,000 reward for any information in their search for the three boys.
Met Police Commander Bas Javid, said: ‘I can’t imagine how distressing this whole situation has been for the three young boys, who have been taken away from their safe environment, and our efforts to locate Imran Safi continues.
‘We are now offering a £20,000 reward for any information that will help us to bring the children home safely.
‘We also need the public’s help to identify a man who was the passenger in the red Nissan at the time the children were taken. He may hold valuable information as to where the children and Imran Safi are.
Detectives fear the children may already be abroad, despite having circulated their father’s mugshot and details to all ports and borders. Pictured left to right: Bilal, 6, Ebrar, 5 and Yaseen, 3
‘We appreciate that the image is not the clearest quality but we still need people to really study it and see if the man in the picture is one that they may recognise.’
Commander Javid, continued: ‘The investigative team has been working tirelessly on this case and we are appealing again because someone reading or seeing this knows the whereabouts of these innocent children and I need them to contact us urgently and provide that knowledge.
‘We believe that Safi and the children have most likely left the UK, but our investigation continues and we will continue to do everything we can to locate the children and arrest Safi.
‘Our working theory is that they have left via a clandestine route, but to where? We remain unsure, and that is why we need people across the country, and abroad to share this appeal for information.
‘The focus of this operation is returning these innocent children to the UK which is our top priority. We hope that offering this reward will lead to some significant information being passed to us.’
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