Plea to soccer fans on missing baby
Barcelona football fans in England for tonight's Champions League tie at Manchester City have been urged to be on the lookout for a missing baby and her parents, after a High Court judge raised the alarm.
Council bosses in Harrow, north-west London, said four-month-old Farah Afzal - who is at the centre of proceedings in the Family Division of the High Court in London - was thought to be in the Spanish city with her father, Mohammed Afzal, 38, and mother, Zainab Rasul, 30.
They appealed for help finding Farah today after Mr Justice Keehan gave permission for the little girl's identity to be revealed in the hope that publicity would lead to her discovery,.
"There are tens of thousands of Barcelona fans in the UK tonight for the big game," said Harrow Council leader Susan Hall.
"My appeal is to those fans to keep their eyes open for baby Farah and her parents when they go home."
Ms Hall said the council began care proceedings following Farah's birth and social workers had concerns about her welfare.
Mr Justice Keehan said social workers had become involved because of concerns about "long-standing drug abuse" by Farah's parents.
He said Farah had been permitted to live with her mother at the home of grandparents while proceedings continued.
Council officials said social workers were told that Farah - who was subject to an interim care order - had gone missing on January 16.
They said the infant and her parents were known to have flown to Spain from Gatwick.
"The evidence we have suggests that the parents and baby Farah have been staying in a run-down area of Barcelona and we are worried for their welfare," said Ms Hall.
"What is important here is the safety of this child. The important thing is for the family to return to the UK so we can plan the best way ahead together.
"I appeal to Mohammed and Zainab to do what is best for their daughter and contact us so we can talk this through."
Ms Hall added: "The court is very concerned about the abduction of Farah during the proceedings. The proceedings were taken because of her parents' abuse of illegal drugs and their dependency on them.
"The documentary evidence filed raises real concerns about the ability of the parents to care for the baby safely."
Council officials said Interpol has been alerted and a police investigation has been launched.