Specialist detectives investigating the abduction of three children from their foster home in south London have launched an appeal for information.
Bilal Safi, Mohammed Ebrar Safi, and Mohammed Yaseen Safi – aged six, five and three – were taken from their home in Coulsdon Road, Coulsdon on Thursday, 20 August.
The children were playing in the garden while their foster carer was in the house. She heard footsteps nearby, turned around and saw the children’s father Imran Safi, 26.
The foster carer told police Imran threatened her with a knife and used force to take the children from the address. They have not been seen since. The foster carer did not suffer any serious physical injuries but was left understandably distressed.
A manhunt for Imran was immediately launched by specialist detectives from a team which leads the response to abductions. They have been working 24/7 out of a specialist facility to trace Imran’s movements.
Shortly after the children were taken an all ports alert was issued, meaning Imran’s image and details were circulated to all ports and borders. Detectives are working closely with national and international agencies to ensure any movement into foreign countries is identified. Imran is an Afghani national, and has links to Pakistan. At this stage, it is not known if he has travelled overseas.
Detectives are now appealing for information regarding the movements of a vehicle throughout the afternoon of Thursday, 20 August in the Croydon area, in particular Coulsdon Road. The vehicle is a red Nissan Qashqai, registration PK13 WFO.
Anyone with a dash-cam who may have noticed passing a vehicle of this description in the timeframe outlined is asked to check their footage for sightings. Similarly, anyone who may have seen a vehicle matching this description driving in an unusual manner in the local area should get in contact with officers who are working hard to trace the vehicle’s movements.
Officers from the South Area Basic Command Unit (BCU) are leading the investigation into the abduction itself. They have arrested eight people on suspicion of involvement in the abduction:
A 25-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man were arrested in Kenley on Friday, 21 August.
Three men – two aged 20 and one aged 17 – were arrested in Croydon on Sunday, 23 August.
A 25-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man were arrested in Kenley on Tuesday, 25 August.
A 33-year-old man was arrested in Croydon on Tuesday, 25 August.
All eight individuals have been bailed to return to a south London police station at a later date.
Anyone who may have information regarding the red vehicle or who believes they have seen Imran Safi and his children since Thursday, 20 August is asked to contact police immediately through the investigation control room on 07942599374 – this number is operational 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Anyone wanting to provide information anonymously can do so by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting crime reference number 6143/20AUG20.
Any member of the public who may see Imran Safi should avoid approaching him but call police immediately on 999 quoting the same crime reference number.
Commander Jon Savell, said: “Our absolute priority at this moment in time is the welfare of these three children. They have been taken from a place of safety and we are growing increasingly concerned about their wellbeing, particularly as we remain in the midst of a global health crisis. While we do not believe at this time there is any immediate risk to their physical safety, their location, access to accommodation, healthcare, and other provisions is entirely unknown. We are concerned about the longer term impact of this on all three children.
“An intense investigation into how this abduction was planned and carried out is being led by detectives in south London, alongside a manhunt being led by specialist detectives within the Met. More than 100 officers are currently working to locate and bring these children home safely. We are, as anyone would expect, working incredibly closely with our law enforcement partners and international colleagues to explore all lines of inquiry.
“This type of investigation is incredibly complex and fast-moving, and for good reason we often don’t speak openly about such cases. That is why, until this stage, we have not sought the public’s help. But we are now urging anyone who may have any information which could assist us to come forward.”
Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, Commander of the South Area Basic Command Unit, said: “The abduction of these children will understandably send be a shock to our communities. This incident involved the use of a weapon and violence and we are incredibly concerned for these three young, vulnerable children who are now being hidden by an individual who may be armed with a knife.
“The investigation into how this incident occurred is progressing at pace – and we have already arrested eight people on suspicion of being involved in this abduction. We know there are people with detailed knowledge of the whereabouts of these children, and we fully appreciate there may be very good reasons for those individuals not wanting to come forward. But right now I would strongly urge them to do the right thing and assist us in locating them.”