Police have started a manhunt to search for three young brothers kidnapped by their father from a foster home in south London.
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. Over 100 officers are searching and about 8 people arrested as part of the investigation and appeal for the public to report any sightings of the boys or the father.
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.
Shortly after the children were taken, Imran’s image and details were circulated to all ports and borders. Police are working closely with national and international agencies in case he makes it into a foreign country. Imran is an Afghani national, and has links to Pakistan.
Eight suspects, including members of the family, have been arrested and questioned. All eight individuals have been bailed to return to a south London police station at a later date.
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 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.
Alternatively, 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.
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.”