The father of ten-year-old Sara Sharif has been arrested on suspicion of her murder by police after returning to the UK from Pakistan.
Urfan Sharif was detained with his partner Beinash Batool and his brother Faisal Malik minutes after they touched down at Gatwick in dramatic scenes on Wednesday, more than a month after police first said they were looking to speak with them.
Surrey Police confirmed that three people “were arrested on suspicion of murder after disembarking a flight from Dubai”.
Police officers were seen boarding an Emirates plane as the trio arrived back in the country, having set off from Sialkot Airport in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province hours earlier and changed in Dubai.
Superintendent Mark Chapman said: “They are currently in custody and will be interviewed in due course.
“Sara’s mother has been informed of this latest update and is being supported by specialist officers. Our thoughts remain with her and those affected by Sara’s death at this difficult time.
“This has been an extremely fast-moving, challenging and complex enquiry, and we remain absolutely committed to conducting a thorough investigation into Sara’s death.”
Sialkot police spokesperson Khan Mudassir earlier on Wednesday confirmed that three people had been detained and handed over to the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency, who arranged their voluntary removal from Pakistan.
Sara was found dead at her family’s home in Woking on 10 August, one day after her father and his family abruptly left the country for Pakistan, which does not have a formal extradition treaty with the UK. Surrey Police have been looking to speak with Mr Sharif ever since.
A post-mortem examination found Sara had suffered “multiple and extensive injuries” over a “sustained and extended” period of time but no cause of death was established. The family was known to local authorities, Surrey County Council confirmed.
Sara’s grandfather Muhammad Sharif previously told the BBC the girl’s death was an “accident”. He said that his son had fled the UK out of “fear”, and said he had urged him to surrender to police.
Pakistani officials detained several of Mr Sharif’s relatives on Saturday after search efforts in Jhelum, 108 miles north-west of the city of Lahore.
Officials also took custody of Sara Sharif’s five siblings and step-siblings, aged between one and 13 years old, after a raid at a family home in Jhelum. They have since been handed over to child protection services in Pakistan.
Mr Chapman said on Tuesday: “The safety and welfare of these five children has always been a priority for us… we will continue to support our partners in ensuring that the welfare of the five children remains a priority.”
Sara’s mother Olga Sharif separated from her husband in 2015, and Sara had lived with her father since 2019.