'The best Christmas present ever': Mother’s joy as abducted Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson, 6, returns home three years after abduction

British girl who her mum ‘thought I’d never see again’ returns safe and well from Pakistan

A six-year-old British girl who was abducted by her father three years ago  and taken to Pakistan was reunited with her mother last night.

“She had a big smile on her face,” said Gemma Wilkinson after greeting her daughter, Atiya, at Manchester Airport. “She’s home where she’s loved.”

Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson was found being cared for by relatives in the Punjab three years after her father, Rizwan Ali Anjum, abducted her, but questions are now being raised as to whether she could have been traced sooner.

For Ms Wilkinson, yesterday’s reunion was the culmination of a desperate search that began in 2009 when Mr Anjum sent her a text message saying she would never see her daughter again. She said: “I am just absolutely overwhelmed at seeing Atiya now and giving her a cuddle and a massive kiss. It was very emotional. She is how I  expected. She looks exactly the same as she did three years ago. She is just taller and a bit older.”

Speaking of the moment they met, she said: “Atiya was told I was ‘Mummy’. She said ‘Mummy’ and smiled. I think she’s happy to be back. She has a big smile, she is playing  nicely, she’s talking. She’s happy. I was worried that she would be upset or scared. She hasn’t been.”

Ms Wilkinson, 32, of Ashton-under-Lyme, discovered on Christmas Day that her daughter was safe, describing it as the “best Christmas present ever”.

It emerged yesterday that Atiya was recovered after her case was raised with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister by a a Member of the European Parliament earlier this month. However, Greater Manchester Police are believed to have known for years that Atiya may have been in Pakistan.

She was last seen by her mother in November 2009, when Mr Anjum, a former insurance salesman, took her from her home in Ashton-under-Lyme, saying they were going to Southport. Instead, he boarded a plane to Lahore with Atiya. He is now serving his fourth consecutive prison sentence in the UK after defying court orders to reveal the girl’s whereabouts.

Last month, police released an e-fit image of what Atiya might look like three years after her abduction. It is  understood that the image, along with the intervention of senior Pakistani  officials, led to new information being handed to Pakistani authorities, which led them to a house in the city Sialkot, where members of Mr Anjum’s extended family were living. Police watched the house for days before telling the residents Atiya must be returned to the UK. It is understood that the family cooperated fully. Atiya is said to be in good health and appears to have been well looked after.

Sajjad Karim, the MEP for North-West England, said the Pakistani  authorities were “absolutely crucial” in resolving the case but acted only after he raised the case with a Pakistani minister at the European Parliament.Mr Karim told the BBC: “There is nothing I’ve done today that couldn’t have been done three-and-a-half years ago. We must sit down and look at putting in place relevant protocols to ensure that measures available to us, outside of purely legal avenues, are explored right at the outset in such cases.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links