A judge in Pakistan has issued a ruling to transfer five children who were taken to Pakistan with a fugitive couple wanted over the death of a 10-year-old girl in Britain to a government-run childcare facility, reported the BBC.
The children were discovered at Sara’s grandfather’s residence, where he wished to retain custody of them.
According to reports, the five British-Pakistani children appeared at a custody hearing on Tuesday (12).
Sara, 10, was found dead at her family home in Woking, Surrey, on 10 August – a day after her father, uncle and step-mother partner left the UK.
Post-mortem examinations revealed that Sara had sustained extensive and multiple injuries.
Surrey Police said last week the welfare of the five children was “a priority” after the girl was found dead with multiple injuries at their home.
On Tuesday, the children were brought to court by family members, escorted by armed police and local media, for a roughly 40-minute proceeding.
As authorities sought to determine the appropriate course of action, the children were moved from one courtroom to another.
While journalists were not permitted to attend the hearing, people who had been present inside the courtroom revealed that there was deliberation about whether the court possessed the jurisdiction to decide on temporary custody, the BBC report said.
Subsequently, the children were swiftly transported to another court, where a judge ruled that they should be temporarily placed in a childcare facility.
Sara’s grandfather, Muhammad Sharif, left the court without making any comments. The court has awarded temporary custody, but the final destination for the children remains uncertain. Also, the judge hasn’t specified the duration of their stay in the facility.
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.
Earlier, Sharif had said that the children had been residing in his home since their arrival on August 10.
According to Surrey Police, Urfan Sharif, 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.
“We have been conducting investigations and raids for some time and were finally successful in recovering the children yesterday,” said Mudassar Khan, spokesman for the Jhelum police.
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.
“We will not be questioning the children. They are innocent in all this and are probably scared as it is,” Khan said.
The fugitive couple said last week they were prepared to cooperate with UK authorities.
“Sara’s death was an accident. 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, 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.
(with inputs from AFP)