Children of couple that fled Britain put into Pakistan state custody

Sara Sharif, 10, was found dead in Woking, southern England, on August 10 (-)
Sara Sharif, 10, was found dead in Woking, southern England, on August 10 (-)

Five British-Pakistani children brought to Pakistan by a fugitive couple wanted over the death of a 10-year-old girl in Britain were taken into the custody of state protective services on Tuesday, police said.

Surrey Police in Britain said last week the welfare of the five children was "a priority" after Sara Sharif was found dead with multiple injuries in her family home in August.

They believe her father Urfan Sharif, aged 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother Faisal Malik, 28, fled to Pakistan with the children aged between one and 13 before Sara's body was found, sparking an international manhunt.

The children were found at Sharif's father's house in Jhelum, around 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the Pakistan capital, after police received information that the couple were hiding there.

"We have been conducting investigations and raids for some time and were finally successful in recovering the children yesterday," Mudassar Khan, spokesman for the Jhelum police, told AFP.

Pakistan police are still investigating how long the children had been in the house as the search for Sharif and Batool continues. The house where the children were found was otherwise empty.

After a court appearance on Tuesday "the area magistrate has ordered the children be handed over into the custody of the child protection bureau," Khan said.

The fugitive couple said last week they were prepared to cooperate with UK authorities.

"Sara's death was an incident. Our family in Pakistan are severely affected by all that is going on," Batool said in a video shared with AFP by her relatives.

"My main concern is that Pakistani police will torture or kill us, that is why we have gone into hiding."

Surrey County Council in Britain, the local authority with responsibility for the welfare of children living in its area, said it was "monitoring developments" and "working with our partners to establish next steps".

The British High Commission in Islamabad did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.