Sara Sharif, 10, found dead at home in Woking 'was home-schooled and never seen smiling or laughing'

23 August 2023, 17:26 | Updated: 8 September 2023, 14:53

A 10-year-old girl who was found dead at her home was known to Surrey County Council
A 10-year-old girl who was found dead at her home was known to Surrey County Council. Picture: Surrey Police

By Kit Heren

A ten-year-old girl who was found dead at home in suburban Surrey had been taken out of school to be taught at home instead.

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Sara Sharif's body was found at home in Woking after police were called from Pakistan by her father, Urfan Sharif, at about 2.50am on August 10.

Sara's uncle Imran Sharif is being held in police custody in Pakistan, and told officers she broke her neck after she slipped and fell - although authorities in the UK said she had sustained injuries over an extended period.

Detectives are hunting Mr Sharif, 41, his partner, Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother, Faisal Malik, 28, who are wanted for questioning.

Police believe they travelled to Islamabad on August 9, with five children aged between one and 13.

Ms Batool told a neighbour that they took Sara out of school because she was being bullied by fellow pupils.

The neighbour told the BBC: "I suggested to Beinash that Sara needed to be with children her own age.

"She replied that she was making friends at the mosque and in her swimming lessons.

"Another time I remarked to Beinash that it must be difficult to home school Sara, especially as she had the baby to look after. She said it was very easy as she used BBC Bitesize."

Sara was "reserved and quiet," the neighbour said. "She often carried the baby in her arms, and sometimes I saw her playing with him. I never saw her smile or laugh."

It comes after Mr Sharif told police in Pakistan that he didn't know where Urfan and his family were.

"I found out what happened to Sara through the international media," he said.

"My parents told me Urfan briefly came home very upset. He kept saying 'they' are going to take his children away from him."

"They" referred to British authorities, the police told Sky News on Tuesday.

Mr Sharif is said to have told officers: "Beinash was home with the children. Sara fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Beinash panicked and phoned Urfan."

Surrey Police said that Sara "suffered multiple and extensive injuries" that were "likely to have been caused over a sustained and extended period of time". Her exact cause of death is unknown.

Read more: Police hunt father, stepmother and uncle in connection with death of Sara Sharif, 10, in Surrey

Read more: Girl, 10, cause of death 'still to be established' after body found in Woking house as hunt for trio continues

Urfan Sharif and Beinash Batool
Urfan Sharif and Beinash Batool. Picture: Surrey Police

She was known to Surrey County Council while she was alive, the local authority said.

On Friday council leader Tim Oliver said: "We can confirm Sara Sharif was known to Surrey County Council but we cannot comment further while the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership's thorough review process is ongoing."

Mr Oliver said: "This is an incredibly sad situation and our thoughts and deepest condolences are with everyone affected."

The national Child Safeguarding panel has been notified of the death and a multi-agency rapid review is under way, in line with standard process following the death of a child, Mr Oliver added.

"This rapid review will determine whether a local child safeguarding practice review (LCSPR) is to be undertaken by the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership.

"An LCSPR is a statutory process, bringing together partners including the police, health, social care and education to review practice of all agencies involved, organisational structures and learning."

Jacquie Chambers, headteacher of St Mary's C of E primary school in Byfleet - where Sara had been a Year 5 pupil, said she would be "dearly missed" by pupils and teachers.

In a statement, she said: "She [Sara] was a bubbly, confident little girl who had the most beautiful smile. She was full of ideas and was very passionate about the things she believed in."

Ms Chambers added: "Sara will be dearly missed and, as a school community, we are all deeply affected by this tragedy.

"Our thoughts, prayers and sympathy are with those affected by this heartbreaking news."

She said St Mary's C of E was "fully supporting partner agencies with their investigations", before adding their current priority was "to support our school community as they grieve and recover".

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