DETECTIVES have launched an “intense investigation” into the abduction of three children from a foster home in south London, and have issued an urgent public appeal for information.
Bilal Safi, Mohammed Ebrar Safi, and Mohammed Yaseen Safi – aged six, five and three were taken forcibly away allegedly by their father from their home in Coulsdon Road, Coulsdon on August 20.
“The children were playing in the garden while their foster carer was in the house,” said an officer. “She heard footsteps nearby, turned around and saw the children’s father Imran Safi, 26.”
The foster carer told the Met Police that Safi “threatened her with a knife and used force to take the children”.
A manhunt for Safi was immediately launched by specialist detectives, who were working closely with national and international agencies to ensure any movement into foreign countries is identified. Safi is an Afghani national, and has links to Pakistan.
Officers, on Friday (28), arrested the four men thought to be known to Safi from an address in Ilford, on suspicion of being involved in the abduction.
“Our absolute priority at this moment in time is the welfare of these three children,” said Commander Jon Savell. “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.”
“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 would have “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,” he added.
“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.”
Stringer added that with the multiple arrests made the investigating team was “one step closer” to finding Safi and the three children, but stressed that the force needed “more information from the public to help us locate them”.
“I would really urge anyone from the Croydon, and now Ilford, area to think long and hard about if they saw these children, or their father, the evening of Thursday, 20 August and possibly the morning of Friday, 21 August,” he said.
The Met Police urged people with any information to call the investigation control room on 07942599374.
“To stay completely anonymous, contact the charity Crimestoppers on freephone 0800 555 111 or fill in their simple and secure anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org,” the force added.
“Any member of the public who may see Imran Safi should avoid approaching him but call police immediately on 999.”