- Zahera Tariq disappeared last summer with her daughter and three sons
- 33-year-old was arrested at border crossing point in Turkey on August 29
- She had travelled through Amsterdam and bought tickets the day before
- Husband Mahmood claims he came home from work to find them missing
- Tariq, from Walthamstow, denies four counts of abducting a child under 16
Zahera Tariq disappeared last summer with her daughter and three sons, sparking an international manhunt. She denies four counts of abducting a child under 16
A mother abandoned her husband and fled the country with her four children aged between five and 13 in a bid to reach war-ravaged Syria, a court heard today.
Zahera Tariq disappeared last summer with her daughter and three sons, sparking an international manhunt.
The 33-year-old travelled from London City Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol on August 25. The family then travelled on to Istanbul, it was claimed.
Tariq was eventually arrested on August 29 in Kilis, one of the two crossing points from Turkey into Syria.
She stayed in contact with one of her four sisters, Aisha Tariq, and her sister's husband Siddartha Dhar, jurors heard.
Tariq's husband, named only as Mahmood, was completely unaware his wife’s plans and had not given permission for her to take the children, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Two of the boys also suffered from an eye condition called Keratoconus, for which they were being treated by Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Mukal Chawla, prosecuting, said: ‘One parent cannot simply take a child or children abroad without the consent of the other parent.
‘To do so without the consent of the other parent amounts to the offence of child abduction and that’s what this defendant is charged with.’
Tariq, of Walthamstow, east London, and her husband were married in Pakistan in 2000, and he joined her in the UK in 2001.
He returned to his home in Walthamstow from his job at a dry cleaners in Edmonton on August 25 to find his home empty.
He was described as a ‘straightforward man of no sophistication’ who was unable to tell police the exact ages of his children.
He was not initially worried, as he believed his family may be at her mother’s house or with one of her sisters.
But when she had not returned by 10pm, he called her mobile and the call went straight through to voicemail.
Mr Chawla said: ‘When they hadn’t returned home later that night he called his wife’s aunt and one of the defendant’s sisters.
‘He discovered that his wife and children were not at either of those relatives’ homes.
‘The aunt asked him to check if the passports and his wife’s jewellery, and he discovered that they were gone.
Tariq had not, however, taken the Pakistan ID cards that would have allowed her to enter Pakistan without a visa.
Mr Chawla continued: ‘The defendant’s father came over to his house and they decided that they should call the police.
‘You will hear that just as they had decided this, the defendant’s aunt with at least one of the defendant’s sisters arrived.
‘At least one or more of the relatives persuaded him not to call the police, saying that his wife may have gone to Syria because that’s where her sister was.'
The family decided to go to Tariq’s aunt’s house in case she telephoned there. They waited up all night but did not receive a call which never came.
Eventually, Mahmood rang his brother who reassured him that he had done nothing wrong and that he should call the police.
Mr Chawla said: ‘His brother will tell you that his brother was upset and crying on the phone, and consequently he arrived very soon thereafter.
‘You may think this is not the reaction of someone who knew his wife was taking their four children abroad.'
The court also heard how Tariq bought five return tickets to Amsterdam from a local travel agent the day before leaving the UK and activated a new, pay-as-you go mobile phone.
She then left from one of her sister’s addresses in Walthamstow and travelled via taxi to London City Airport.
Mr Chawla added: ‘It is clear that [her sister] knew that the defendant was going away with the children, even though the defendant’s husband had been left in the dark.’
Upon arrival at Amsterdam Schiphol, she bought five single tickets to Istanbul, which she paid for in cash, the court heard.
When they reached Turkey, they spent the night in the Adana Saray Hotel in Adana before making their way to Kelis, it was said.
Mahmood did not receive a call from his wife until August 30 after her arrest by the Turkish authorities.
Upon the family’s repatriation to the UK, Tariq was initially held at Luton airport. She answered ‘no comment’ to all questions put to her by police.
The court later heard Mahmood explicitly say he had not given permission for his wife to take the children to Turkey.
He insisted he had no idea they were leaving or where they had gone and said he had recently spent a 'happy' couple of weeks at home, in which his wife did not mention anything.
Mahmood said he knew his wife’s sister Aisha was in Syria but was not aware if the two women were in touch.
He told the court he was paid £676 monthly but his wife received between £1,100 and £1,200 monthly in benefits, including child benefit.
Peter Carter, defending, said Tariq had told Mahmood she was going to try and persuade her sister to return home.
He added: ‘She said she had tried to persuade her on the telephone but Aisha wanted to stay in Syria.
‘Therefore you, your wife and your children were going to go to Turkey to try and persuade Aisha to cross the border into Turkey and come home.
‘This was going to have to take place in the school holidays so the kids didn’t miss out on any education.’ Mahmood denied this suggestion.
Mr Carter continued: ‘By August 24 you were back at work and your wife said now you are back at work you are able to travel, so we can all - meaning you, her and the children - can travel to Turkey to rescue Aisha.’
But Mahmood again denied any knowledge his wife had gone to the travel agent and said he had not seen her packing.
He also revealed he did not want to live with his wife following the incident and said he was scared, which is why he did not initially tell police.
Mr Chawla told the jury: ‘The issue is simply that she took the children out of the UK without the consent of her husband.
‘If you consider that she did, she’s guilty, if you consider that she didn’t, she’s not guilty.
‘If Mr Mahmood knew that his wife and family were travelling abroad to Turkey or anywhere else, why did it become necessary to call the police to report them missing?
‘In addition, you may think that his reaction as witnessed by his brother and his father-in-law speaks volumes about the defendant’s decision to take her children suddenly and without warning out of the UK.’
He added: ‘The prosecution need to prove only that the defendant took these children abroad, not what her motivation was, and you may hear some evidence about that in due course.
‘If the defendant took the children abroad without the consent of her husband, she’s guilty.’
Tariq denies four counts of abduction of a child under 16.
The trial continues.