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Mum in heartbreaking plea for return of Atiya
7:00am Tuesday 6th November 2012 in News
The mother of a missing girl abducted by her father says she prays her “little bundle of joy” is safe and well, three years after she was taken.
Gemma Wilkinson, 32, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said not knowing five-year-old Atiya is even alive is an “absolute nightmare” as she appealed today for information on her whereabouts.
Atiya 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 Ms Wilkinson that she was “never going to see Atiya again”, courts have heard.
Anjum was handed a fourth consecutive jail term by a High Court judge in April after he refused to reveal where his daughter was.
Mr Justice Moor imposed a 12-month prison sentence after he found him in contempt of a High Court order instructing him to disclose her whereabouts. He said Anjum, who is in his late 20s, would not be eligible for release until he had served at least six months.
Judges have previously imposed jail terms of two years, 12 months and another 12 months in the hope that Anjum would provide information. They have re-jailed Anjum as each sentence neared its end.
Ms Wilkinson, a former charity worker, took legal action in an attempt to force Anjum to reveal the crucial details.
Anjum, who represented himself at the latest court hearing, indicated that Atiya was in Pakistan or Iran but said he did not know her exact whereabouts.
Mr Justice Moor said he was sure Anjum was lying.
The judge said: “I am certain that he is in contempt. It is absolutely absurd for him to suggest that he does not know the whereabouts of his daughter and he cannot contact her. I am certain he is lying.”
Another judge has previously said the case was “as bad a case of child abduction as I have encountered”.
Speaking ahead of Atiya’s sixth birthday tomorrow, 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 goodnight to her every night before bed. I pray she’s okay. We don’t have any proof that she’s okay, there is no proof she is still alive. It’s been discussed that she could have been sold, but I don’t want to believe it.
”She was so funny. She was a little bundle of joy. She loved her lip gloss and handbags - as soon as she got hold of my makeup bag, everything in it was hers. We just want her home.”
Her “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.
”He’s enjoying playing his controlling mind games. It’s just sick.
”Razwan is refusing to say where she is, who she’s with and he won’t say anything other than ‘she’s in Iran’.
”Originally she was in Pakistan. He won’t give the actual location of where she is.
”He’s doing this because he has control over me. He knew the relationship was non-existent.”
She added: “It’s ongoing, it’s been three years of trauma and nightmares. I can’t sleep at night. I just want to know she’s okay, she’s being looked after.
”We haven’t celebrated her birthday since she went missing but I’ve bought her presents each year - they are waiting for her to open when she comes home. I haven’t been in touch with Madeline 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 Constable Emma Constantine, of Greater Manchester Police’s Child Protection Unit, said: “As far as we know, Razwan has had no contact with Atiya himself. He’s never received any letters or photographs of Atiya, so there’s no way that he knows how she is.
”We’ve been to see him a few times. He maintains the facade she’s in Iran but there’s no evidence to support that, so we’re very sceptical. It’s only him that holds the information.”
Detective Superintendent Phil Owen said: “We’re working with a range of international agencies in order to find out who may be harbouring her, but it presents its challenges and problems and hopefully this is now the time to tug at heart-strings and generate information from the public.
”We haven’t got any evidence to know she’s even alive. This is the only way he can exert control. He’s manipulative, he puts himself first. He will convince himself that she’s looked after and cared for but he doesn’t know that.”
Anyone with information should phone police on 101, the Foreign Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 0878 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
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