Reunited: Mother breaks down in tears as she is reunited with six-year-old girl abducted from Britain three years ago
Six-year-old went missing on her third birthday during trip to seaside
Atiya was traced after police published picture of what she looks like now
Father currently serving a prison sentence for refusing to reveal her locationRazwan Ali Anjum took her to Lahore in Pakistan three years ago
22:21 GMT, 28 December 2012
The mother of a missing girl abducted three years ago broke down in tears as she described the moment she saw her daughter again today.
An emotional Gemma Wilkinson spoke to
members of the press in the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Manchester Airport
shortly after she was reunited with her daughter.
Gemma Wilkinson, 32, had not seen
daughter Atiya since she was kidnapped by her father during a birthday
visit to the seaside, was reunited with the six-year-old last night.
She said: 'I am just absolutely
overwhelmed at seeing Atiya now and giving her a cuddle and a massive
kiss. I am just absolutely overwhelmed.'
Gemma Wilkinson (left) after being reunited with her daughter Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson (right)
The six-year-old girl who was abducted by her father on her third birthday and taken to Pakistan
Six-year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson, is finally home more than three years after she was abducted by her father and taken to Pakistan
A computer generated image of how Atiya could look now, which is said to have helped in finding her
'We have gone from not knowing where
Atiya is to finding out that we do know where Atiya is, to receiving
pictures of Atiya and how she looks now, to Atiya coming here and Atiya
actually being here. It's just been an absolute whirlwind.'
Ms Wilkinson said she could not explain what it was like to see her daughter's face again and see 'what she is actually like'.
'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.'
Ms Wilkinson said she did have a 'few
fears' that Atiya would be unsettled with the change and the flight but
added: 'She is absolutely fine. She is trying to communicate and she is
playing with the things that we have bought for her. She's settled.'
Describing the moment they met again,
she said: 'She had a big smile on her face. Atiya was told that I was
mummy and she said 'Mummy' and smiled.
Miss Wilkinson had said ‘all her Christmases had come at once’ when she heard her daughter had been found in Pakistan.
Waiting: Tears from Gemma Wilkinson tonight at Manchester Airport awaiting the return of her daughter Atiya
Atiya was three when she was snatched
by Razwan Ali Anjum, 28, who had told Miss Wilkinson he was taking
their daughter on a day trip to Southport, Merseyside – but instead flew
her 3,700 miles to his native Pakistan.
The former insurance salesman then
returned to the UK without Atiya and told Miss Wilkinson she would never
see her daughter again. Anjum was jailed for refusing to reveal Atiya’s
whereabouts, with one judge saying it was the ‘most cruel’ form of
abduction he had dealt with.
It is understood Atiya was traced on
Christmas Eve and Anjum’s younger brother, Imran, flew out the same day
to Pakistan. He escorted the youngster on the flight home and they
arrived at Manchester Airport last night.
tearful Miss Wilkinson, speaking just hours before the reunion, said:
‘I just want to give her a hug that lasts forever. She’s the best
Christmas present I could ever, ever ask for. It’s going to be quite
hard work for Atiya when she comes back but we’ve got all the support
that she needs to be able to adapt to life back at home.’
added: ‘The last three years have been an absolute nightmare. The not
knowing, imagining things and thinking about what could have happened.
Nobody knew anything, or would say anything. I thought I was still
dreaming when I woke up this morning, but this is real and she’s on her
Separated: Anjum, left, and Ms Wilkinson, right, had an 'on-off' relationship split-up before Atiya was born
The youngster, now six, was
discovered in the town of Sialkot, Punjab, following a police appeal on
November 6. On the eve of her sixth birthday, police issued a
computer-generated photograph of what she was thought to look like now
and a plea from her mother for anyone with information to get in touch.
It emerged that Atiya had been living with Anjum’s relatives in the town
Police sources said the relatives
agreed to co-operate with the Pakistani authorities after seeing that
the girl’s mother was still appealing for her to be found three years
on. Miss Wilkinson, a former charity worker, met Anjum in 2003 on a
business college course and Atiya was born on November 7, 2006. She
ended the relationship with Anjum, who she described as possessive and
controlling, two years later.
return followed the intervention of Sajjad Karim, an MEP for North West
England, who met Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister, last
month to discuss the case. He said: ‘The authorities in Pakistan have
been absolutely crucial in delivering Atiya to us.
MOTHER'S AGONY: HOW ATIYA'S ORDEAL UNFOLDED
2003: Gemma Wilkinson and Razqan Ali Anjum meet while studying at Oldham Business Management School and start on-off relationship
November 7, 2006: Their daughter Atiya was born
2008: Ms Wilkinson ended her relationship with Anjum after he became overly possessive
November 7, 2009: Atiya went missing on her birthday after her father said he was taking her on a trip to Southport
November 16, 2009: Atiya was supposed to share a flight back from Pakistan with her grandmother but the woman returned alone
November 20, 2009: Anjum arrested after returning to the UK without his daughter and refusing to reveal her whereabouts
June 2010: Anjum jailed after refusing to comply with a court order compelling him to reveal Atiya's location
November 6, 2012: Ms Wilkinson made an emotional appeal for Atiya's return and a photograph of what she looks like now was published
December 2012: Atiya found living with relatives in a village in Pakistan
December 28, 2012: Atiya returned home to her mother
Torment: Atiya's mother described the horror of being without her little girl for three years
[the authorities] monitored the place where she was and eventually they
moved in and informed the people that she was living with, the extended
family of the father, that Atiya would have to be returned to the UK.
‘There wasn’t any resistance. Her passport was produced immediately upon their request.’
was jailed in June 2010 for failing to disclose Atiya’s whereabouts,
but has subsequently been given three more jail terms.
A spokesman for Mr Karim’s office said Anjum was still in jail and had refused to co-operate with police.
Detective Superintendent Phil Owen
said: 'This has been a long and hard investigation which has thankfully
culminated in Atiya being on her way home.
the three years of her disappearance, her mother Gemma has
understandably been sick with worry. She had not heard from her beloved
daughter and did not know whether she would ever set eyes upon her
alongside ourselves and a variety of organisations, were determined we
would not give up and remained dedicated to finding her. Thanks to this
determination and the help from the Pakistani authorities, we have the
outcome we were hoping for.'