The Met Police say Bethnal Green Academy’s deputy head teacher contacted the families of three teenage girls about police concern prior to their flight to the Islamic State.
The families have complained that police did not contact them directly after an inquiry began into the 15 year old friend of their daughters who’d travelled to Syria via Gatwick and Istanbul on December 6th last year.
They say they feel angry and let down because letters requesting to interview the three should have been handed directly to the families but instead were hidden by the girls in their textbooks.
Abase Hussein, the father of Amira Abase, told ITV News:
If we knew this wouldn’t have happened. We would have stopped them. We would have discussed it and taken away their passports from them. This wouldn’t have happened.
Halima Khanom, sister of Kadiza Sultana, said: ‘We wouldn’t have been here today doing this if we’d got that letter and known what was going on.’
The Met Police say:
We now understand that these letters were not passed on in every case. With the benefit of hindsight, we acknowledge that the letters could have been delivered direct to the parents.
The Met Police say an officer met with the missing girl’s friendship group in the office of the school’s deputy head three days after her journey to Syria.
The seven girls were being treated as witnesses and included Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase.
The Met Police say:
1) There was no indication that any of the girls spoken to were in any way vulnerable or indeed radicalised.
2) There was no indication that any of the girls were at risk of travelling to Syria.
3) The families of all of the girls who had been spoken to were contacted by the Deputy Head on the advice of the police.
4) They were made aware that their schoolfriend had been reported missing and the deputy headmistress asked them to come back to the school or police with any information.
5) On February 5th 2015 officers visited Bethnal Green Academy to speak to the same group of girls in a meeting convened by the Deputy Head Mistress.
6) They handed letters to each of the girls, addressed to their parents, requesting their daughters’ further co-operation as part of the investigation.
7) The parents were already aware from the Deputy Head that their daughter’s friend had been reported missing, all the teenagers were all being co-operative, they were all being treated as potential witnesses and there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that they themselves were planning to travel to Syria.
A spokesperson for Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) said their investigation into the disappearaence of the four girls aged 15 and 16 ‘is receiving a great deal of support from the Turkish authorities who are making good progress in pursuing lines of inquiry in Turkey.’