Sara Sharif’s grandfather has told Sky News it was “his duty to protect” five children who have been recovered from his home by police searching for his son.
The youngsters, aged between one and 13, are understood to have travelled from the UK to Pakistan with Sara‘s father Urfan Sharif, her stepmother Beinash Batool, and Mr Sharif’s brother Faisal Shahzad Malik last month.
Authorities want to question the trio over the death of 10-year-old Sara, whose body was found at her home in Woking, Surrey, on 10 August after her father called 999 from Pakistan. He had flown there from Britain a day earlier.
Sara’s grandfather, Muhammad Sharif, who lives in the city of Jhelum, said the five children had been with him since they came to Pakistan and “it was his duty to protect the children”, adding: “I couldn’t leave them alone.”
He insisted the children were “fine and happy with me”.
Sara’s grandfather described the police raid on his home by around 15 officers, saying: “We were inside the house, they raided the doors and I don’t know if they had a search warrant.”
He said the five children were in a room when “they took them away”.
Muhammad Sharif admitted he met Mr Sharif, 41, Ms Batool, 29, and Mr Malik, 28, “on the first day” after they travelled to Pakistan.
“They told me they were scared and ran from the UK,” he said, adding: “I told them the kids will stay with me, you go wherever you want to go.”
Police ‘never asked about the kids’
Mr Sharif also told Sky News the police “have never asked me about the kids, and where they are”, claiming officers were “only interested in the parents, they weren’t with me”.
And he said he had not spoken to the trio “for a long time”.
Since the five children were recovered by police and placed in custody at a local police station, they have now been handed back to their grandfather. They are at his home but officers will on Tuesday hand them over to the court.
The search is still ongoing for the three adults, and officers say they are “hopeful” they can locate Mr Sharif and Ms Batool.
Police believe the trio had been previously hiding at the address officers raided.
UK officers launched a murder investigation after Sara was found dead. A post-mortem examination revealed she had suffered “multiple and extensive” injuries.
Surrey Police have said the welfare of the children was a “priority”.
In a video shared with Sky News last week, Ms Batool said the family is willing to cooperate with British authorities and “fight our case in court”.
Ms Batool denied media reports that Mr Sharif’s brother Imran had claimed Sara fell down the stairs, saying that was spread through a Pakistani media outlet.
“Our family in Pakistan are severely affected by all that is going on,” she added.
Ms Batool also expressed concern for the family’s safety, saying they had been forced into “hiding”.
“The groceries have run out and there is no food for the kids as the adults are unable to leave their homes out of fear for safety,” she added.
In an interview with the Polish television programme “Uwaga!”, Sara’s mother, Olga Sharif, shared the distressing account of her visit to see her daughter’s body in a mortuary.
She said: “One of her cheeks was swollen and the other side was bruised.
“Even now, when I close my eyes I can see what my baby looked like.”
Ms Sharif and her husband separated in 2015, and Sara, along with her older brother, lived with her until 2019, when a family court determined they should reside with their father.
While she retained equal rights to visit her children, Ms Sharif said she found it increasingly challenging to maintain those rights as time went on.
Sara’s grandfather Muhammad Sharif previously told the BBC that the girl’s father claimed her death was an “accident”.
Surrey Police are appealing for information to help get a better understanding of Sara’s life.