Snatched girl flown back to UK and into mother’s arms after three years

Missing six-year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson returned to the UK today
Missing six-year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson returned to the UK today
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A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl who was abducted by her father and taken to Pakistan three years ago arrived back in the UK last night.

Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson vanished in November 2009 after going 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”.

Last night, the child was set for an emotional reunion with her mother, whom police said “never gave up” the search for her little girl.

Anjum is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK for refusing to reveal his daughter’s whereabouts despite a court order.

Police published a computer-generated image of what Atiya might look like now, a day before her sixth birthday in


Speaking ahead of her daughter’s birthday, 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 good night to her every night before bed. I pray she’s OK.”

Ms Wilkinson’s “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. “He’s enjoying playing his controlling mind games.

“Razwan is refusing to say where she is, who she’s with, and he won’t say anything other than, ‘She’s in Iran’.

“He’s doing this because he has control over me. He knew the relationship was non-


Ms Wilkinson went on: “I haven’t been in touch with Madeleine McCann’s parents but they are an inspiration. It’s something I would consider in the future.

“I had no reason to believe that she was at any risk. There had been a standard routine, there hadn’t been any problems with the arrangements.”

Detective Superintendent Phil Owen, from Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP’s) child protection unit, said the investigation had “been long and hard”.

He added: “Throughout the three years of her disappearance, her mother Gemma has understandably been sick with worry. She had not heard from her beloved daughter and did not know whether she would ever set eyes upon her again.

“However, Gemma, alongside ourselves and a variety of organisations, were determined we would not give up and remained dedicated to finding her. Thanks to this determination and the help from the Pakistani authorities, we have the outcome we were hoping for.”

Local MEP Sajjad Karim said: “I was delighted to be able to assist GMP to bring this case to a satisfactory fruition. Two Greater Manchester Police officers provided continued support for this case for over three years but the real credit goes to Atiya’s mum, Gemma, who never gave up.

“I am also very grateful to the Pakistani authorities who did the work on the ground to

locate Atiya.”

Mr Karim added that he only became aware of the situation four or five weeks ago following the last police appeal. He said that as soon as he knew of

Atiya’s plight, he contacted police and offered to use his various links in Pakistan.

He said it was the co-operation of local authorities in Pakistan which made the youngster’s return possible.

He said: “Without them it would have been impossible.

Mr Karim claimed the authorities were “completely unaware” and that when he raised it with them, they were committed to do everything possible.

The politician said they managed to find Atiya on Christmas Eve and got hold of up-to-date pictures of her, which they were able to show to her mother in the UK on Christmas Day.

He said that no money changed hands in getting her back, adding: “I’m delighted that she is now back in the UK.

“The one personal regret I have about the case is that I didn’t know about it three-and-a-half years ago.”

Timeline of events

• 2008: Gemma Wilkinson separates from Razwan Ali Anjum.

• 2009: November 6: Atiya last seen by mother Gemma.

November 16 Atiya was booked on flight from Pakistan but did not return.

November 20 Anjum arrested after refusing to reveal Atiya’s location.

• 2010: June Anjum jailed for failing to disclose Atiya’s location.

April: High Court sentences Anjum a fourth time in hope he reveals Atiya’s location.

• 2012:

November 6: Police publish image of what Atiya might look like now.

December: Atiya found with relatives in Pakistan.

December 28: Atiya due to be reunited with mother.