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Sara Sharif's mother says 'weight has been lifted' as girl's father, stepmother and uncle arrested after returning to UK
14 September 2023, 07:50 | Updated: 14 September 2023, 09:54
Sara Sharif's mother has said the arrest of her daughter's father is a "weight lifted".
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Olga Sharif said she feared police would never be able to finish investigating what happened to her 10-year-old girl.
Sara was found dead at her her home in Woking almost five weeks ago.
Her father, Urfan Sharif, 41, stepmother Beinash Batook and uncle Faisal Malik went to Pakistan before police found her body.
They have now returned to the UK and were arrested on suspicion of murder at Gatwick Airport on Wednesday evening.
Olga Sharif said: "I am very happy that the police have made arrests. It is a huge relief and something I didn’t think would happen this quickly.
"I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders but there is still a long way to go before I feel closure."
She told The Sun: "I have had to wait a long time for this and I didn't know if they would ever be able to investigate what happened to my daughter."
They trio flew from Sialkot, in Punjab, to Dubai before transferring to another flight to Gatwick.
They landed on Wednesday evening and were arrested at about 7.45pm.
"This evening, around 7.45pm, three people were arrested in connection with this investigation at Gatwick Airport," Surrey Police's detective superintendent Mark Chapman said.
"Two men, aged 41 years and 28 years, and a woman, aged 29 years, were arrested on suspicion of murder after disembarking a flight from Dubai. 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 very 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.
"We will not be commenting any further at this point and will provide further updates as and when we are able to."
A spokesman for Jhelum Police, Mudassar Khan, also confirmed that they were returning to the UK but no further details were given.
Sara Shariff: Urfan Sharif and Beinash Batool say they are willing to cooperate with UK authorities
A post-mortem examination found that Sara suffered "multiple and extensive injuries" over a "sustained and extended" period of time.
Her cause of death is "not yet ascertained" but is likely to be "unnatural", an inquest opening into her death at Surrey Coroner's Court previously heard.
Sara's father and stepmother shared a public statement last week, saying they were "willing to cooperate with the UK authorities".
Batool described Sara's death as an "incident", saying: "Our family in Pakistan are severely affected by all that is going on."
She continued: "All of our family members have gone into hiding as everyone is scared for their safety.
"The kids are unable to attend school as they're afraid to leave the house. No one is leaving the house.
"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 ended saying: "Lastly, we are willing to cooperate with the UK authorities and fight our case in court."
It comes after five children who travelled to Pakistan with Sara's father were removed from their grandfather's home by police in Pakistan. Officers raided the house in the hunt for the three.
Surrey Police said they are now working to secure their safe return to the UK.
The force said it had been working with Surrey County Council and international authorities after a Pakistani court ruled the children would be temporarily moved to a government childcare facility on Tuesday.
It is unclear where the children will ultimately be sent or for how long they may be kept in the facility.