Mystery of the missing father of kidnapped boy

A simple abduction case has been enveloped by a web of intrigue.

At first it seemed like a simple case of abduction: a five-year-old British boy snatched by masked gunmen in Pakistan on the last day of a two-week holiday with his father.

A £100,000 ransom demand for his safe return had been issued and, as the boy's father and police frantically searched the Punjab, a distraught mother made a desperate appeal from her home in Oldham to be reunited with her child.

But since Sahil Saeed was bundled from his grandmother's house in the Pakistani city of Jhelum on 4 March, the story has become more complicated by the day.

First there were reports that the five-year-old had been found safe and well in Sialkot, a bustling city at the foot of the Himalayas some 50 miles east of Jhelum. But they were false. A kidnapped boy had indeed been found, but it was not Sahil.

Then there was the equally mysterious whereabouts of Sahil's father, Raja Naqqash Saeed.

Rumours had been circulating that the Pakistani national had returned to the UK, against the wishes of the Punjab police who wanted him to remain in the country. Last night Pakistani and British officials confirmed that Mr Saeed had returned to Britain. Foreign Office officials in the UK said he boarded a flight to Manchester on Tuesday night.

For most of yesterday Pakistani officials, including the High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, insisted that Mr Saeed was still in the Punjab in "protective custody". But last night they finally confirmed he had taken a flight back to Britain. It is believed he did not inform police of his intention to fly to the UK.

"He went via PIA [Pakistan International Airways]," Mr Hassan told The Independent last night. "How could a father leave his child like that when he's still missing?"

Sahil's relatives in Oldham, meanwhile, a large close-knit family who have kept a vigil around the boy's inconsolable mother Akila for more than a week, say they have not heard from Mr Saeed in days.

Mr Saeed's return is another mysterious footnote to a case in which discrepancies have been exposed every day. Many local observers said it was odd that within a conservative Pakistani family a five-year-old child would travel abroad without his mother. It was also bizarre, they added, that the mother had remained in Britain throughout the ordeal. And if the father really had decided to leave Pakistan while his son remained missing, that would be even stranger.

Hard facts are difficult to come by, so what do we know?

What is not disputed is that in the early hours of 4 March, Sahil Saeed went missing. The kidnappers are said to have arrived late at night, just moments before Mr Saeed and his son were to head to Islamabad airport and return to Britain. Sahil had told his mother that he wanted jacket potatoes when he got home because he was bored of chapattis.

But he never made it home. Instead the gates of the Jhelum compound were opened to allow an awaited taxi to drive in. Accompanying the vehicle was a gang armed with guns and grenades.

Mr Saeed said that he was then "tortured" for several hours before the kidnappers snatched the child and demanded £100,000 in ransom.

The motives of the kidnappers are as unclear as Sahil's whereabouts. One theory is that the family was targeted because of their connections to Britain, where even the poorest families are largely considered to be rich by Pakistani standards.

The home where Sahil was snatched from lies on a narrow and winding street that boasts many second homes for British-Pakistani families. In recent years loud and gaudy designs, complete with Greek columns, gilt-edged roofs and shimmering mirror tiles have sprung up across Jhelum. Scenting foreign wealth, local rackateers and gangsters may have been tipped off.

But a queue of senior Pakistani ministers and diplomats have also put forward the theory that members of the broader family may have been involved. The taxi driver who came to collect the pair and a man police describe as "a close family member" are the only two that continue to be under arrest.

"When this incident first happened my initial reaction was that it was likely to be some sort of inside job," Mr Shamsul Hasan said yesterday. "It's possible that there has been some sort of property dispute between a member of the family in Jhelum and the father."

There were also suggestions that Mr Saeed had fallen out with his wife, taking Sahil and his mother's passport to Pakistan. The family – including Mr Saeed – have denied those claims. When The Independent interviewed Mr Saeed last week he bristled at suggestions that the kidnappings came on the heels of a rift within his marriage. "My family, my wife, everyone is with me," he said. "I am getting too much support from my in-laws."

The search for Sahil, meanwhile, continues to frustrate. Depressingly, financial kidnappings are not uncommon in parts of Pakistan although it is rare for a foreign born child like Sahil to be targeted.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition