Met Police have released a frantic appeal for three young brothers after they were abducted from their south London foster home by their knife-wielding father.
Imran Safi, 26, allegedly broke into their home in the Coulsdon Road area, threatened their foster mother with a knife and took the boys Bilal, six, Ebrar, five, and Yaseen, aged three.
Safi and the three boys were seen driving away around 6pm on Thursday, August 20, and have not been seen since.
A manhunt was immedaitely launched for Imran, and hundreds of officers and specialist detectives have been working around the clock to trace his movements.
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.”
Police believe this may have been a planned event given the group’s swift disappearance, and people linked to the family or within the local community may likely have knowledge of their whereabouts.
DCS Stringer 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.
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.
In a police briefing, Met Police said they believe Mr Safi, an Afghan national, may have taken the children out of the country.
All ports and borders were alerted and sent images shortly after the abduction, and detectives are working closely with national and international agencies to ensure any movement into foreign countries is identified.
Already, eight people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the abduction, all known associates or family of Imran.
Commander Jon Savell said their “absolute priority” is the welfare of the 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.”
According the police, the children were playing in the garden whilst their foster carer was in the house when she turned around and saw the children’s father Imrean Safi.
She told police Imran threatened her with a knife and used force to take the children from the address, and leaving the foster carer extremely distressed.
The children have not been seen since, which is “highly unusual” to have found no trace despite “intensive police resources” including hundreds of officers working around the clock.
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.
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.