Page last updated at 22:01 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Kidnapped boy Sahil Saeed returns to the UK


Sahil Saeed back at home in Oldham

A five-year-old British boy, who was held by kidnappers in Pakistan for two weeks, has returned to the family home.

Sahil Saeed, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was released unharmed on Tuesday after a £110,000 ransom was paid by his family.

He was on holiday with his father Raja Saeed in Jhelum in the Punjab region when he was snatched on 4 March.

Three people have appeared in court in Spain charged over the kidnapping. Two others were arrested in Paris.

Sahil was seized during a robbery at his grandmother's home and freed after 12 days.

The case has seen an array of twists and turns, involving a family spread across two continents, investigators in Pakistan, the UK, Spain and France, and international police organisation Interpol.

Sahil is doing well, is in good spirits, and can't wait to return to the UK to see his mum
Raja Saeed

Following an emotional reunion with his son at the home of the British High Commissioner in Islamabad, Mr Saeed thanked people who have sent messages of support over the past fortnight.

"I am completely overjoyed that I have been reunited with my son after such a long ordeal.

"Sahil is doing well, is in good spirits, and can't wait to return to the UK to see his mum, his family, and join his friends back at school."

He also paid tributes to the "tireless efforts" of the Pakistani and UK authorities that ended with the "safe return of Sahil to us".

Mr Saeed asked the media to show "restraint and respects our family's privacy as we spend some quality time with Sahil".

Money for freedom

The news of Sahil's return to Britain was met by joyful scenes in his home town of Oldham.

His aunt, Naila Wasseem, said: "We are ecstatic, everybody is over the moon. Everybody, for 13 days, all we have done is non-stop praying. "

Asked about Sahil's mother and father, the five-year-old's great uncle, Mushtaq Raja, said: "They wanted to cry.

The three suspects have been remanded in custody in Spain

"When you are so happy - you had lost your son then he appears before your eyes, you can't imagine how emotional it is."

Meanwhile Sahil's other relatives dashed in and out of their home with food in big steel pans ready for a family celebration.

Speaking after the reunion British High Commissioner in Pakistan, Adam Thomson, said Sahil had met his father along with other relatives who had brought the boy to Islamabad.

"I can imagine it's a very emotional moment for them all," he said.

While Sahil was in captivity, a phone call made from Spain instructed the boy's father to travel to Manchester and then Paris, where police watched him hand over the cash in a street.

Spanish authorities were alerted by Interpol after the call was traced to Spain, and police there said the initial phone call gave the family three days to pay a ransom.

Unconfirmed reports in the Manchester Evening News have suggested Greater Manchester Police helped "facilitate" the ransom payment, but the force refused to confirm or deny the claim.

£110,000 in cash

Spanish officers said police in Paris watched as people took the money handed over by Sahil's 28-year-old father and divided it into a bag and a trolley.

French police then followed them to the border with Spain.

As soon as they were confident Sahil was safe, armed Spanish police officers in Tarragona, Catalonia, raided a flat in nearby Constanti.

'Ransom suitcase' found in Spain

They arrested two Pakistani men and a Romanian woman in connection with the kidnapping.

Some £110,000 in cash, a computer and some mobile phones - used to contact Sahil's father in Pakistan to demand the ransom - were found at the property.

Two of the group had driven to the French capital to collect the payment and were arrested as they returned to Spain.

Three people appeared before a court in Tarragona on Thursday morning and were formally charged by a judge with kidnapping a minor.

The two Pakistani men and one Romanian woman, who did not enter a plea, were remanded in custody.

The proceedings were declared secret, the official said, and a decision will be made "in the coming days" over which country's jurisdiction the investigation will proceed under.

1. 4 March: Sahil Saeed seized 2. Date unknown: Phone call from Spain instructs Raja Saeed to return to UK, and then to Paris with ransom 3. 8 March: Raja Saeed returns to UK 4. Date unknown: Two suspects drive to Paris where Raja Saeed hands over ransom. Suspects return to Spain, tailed by police 5. 16 March: Sahil freed 6. 16 March: Spanish police arrest three suspects in Tarragona 7. 17 March: French police arrest two suspects in Paris 8. 18 March: Raja Saeed returns to Pakistan. Reunited with Sahil

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