A former insurance salesman jailed for contempt of court after abducting his daughter and taking her to Pakistan must stay in prison, even though the girl has been found, a High Court judge said.
Razwan Ali Anjum, 29, had asked Mr Justice Holman to free him in the wake of the discovery of six-year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson more than three years after she vanished. But the judge said Anjum had “gone on and on and and on and on” disobeying High Court judges’ orders to reveal Atiya’s whereabouts and could take “no credit at all” for her return.
Mr Justice Holman said an “apology and expression of remorse” carried “very little weight” and ruled that Anjum should stay in jail until at least March. Atiya’s mother, Gemma Wilkinson, 34, who thought her former partner was taking the girl to a Lancashire seaside resort for a week, said she was pleased with the judge’s decision.
“I am happy he’s still in custody,” Ms Wilkinson said, after the High Court hearing in London. “It just gives me a little bit more time to settle Atiya in.”
Anjum had been ordered by the High Court to reveal the whereabouts of Atiya after the youngster vanished at the age of three in November 2009. He refused to comply with the order and was imprisoned in April 2010 after a judge concluded he was in contempt of court.
Atiya, now six, was found in Pakistan on Christmas Eve following police investigations. She was reunited with her mother a few days later after being flown back to the UK, the High Court was told. Ms Wilkinson, a former charity worker, started legal action in 2009 in an attempt to force Anjum to reveal Atiya’s whereabouts.
A number of High Court judges have examined the case over the past three years and have imposed a series of jail terms after concluding Anjum was in contempt. Anjum was serving the latest of those sentences – a 12-month term imposed in October. He would have been eligible for release on parole in April.
Mr Justice Holman said Anjum should not yet be released because his punishment had to be “considerable”. The judge instead decided the 12-month term imposed in October should be cut to 10 months following Atiya’s discovery. Lawyers said that would make Anjum eligible for release on parole in March.
Judges have heard that Anjum’s “on-off” relationship with Ms Wilkinson ended in 2008 and that Atiya vanished after going to stay with her father the following year. Anjum had said he was taking Atiya to Southport. Instead he took her to Lahore, Pakistan, and told Ms Wilkinson she was “never going to see Atiya again”.
He had referred to Ms Wilkinson as “only or merely her birth mother”, judges heard. One judge said the case was “as bad a case of child abduction as I have encountered”.