THE GRIEVING mum of toddler Sanaya Shaib has left her home as investigators continue to hunt for the 15-month-old’s killer.
The police forensics team are now searching a home address of the mother of the dead toddler. They have been joined by members of the homicide division. Forensics Police said they were expected to stay at the house for several hours.
Local residents paid tribute to the 15-month-old with flowers and teddy bears near where her body was found.
Forensic police have started their search of the house by checking discarded rubbish near the property and in the back garden.
Homicide Squad detectives were investigating after the discovery of the body at Heidelberg West this morning. The body was found in the Darebin Creek by four people searching together, about 2.45am.
Earlier police said the only suspect in the toddler’s death is described to be a man of African appearance, between the ages of 20 and 30, six-feet-tall, wearing black pants, a black hooded zipper top, no shoes and smelling heavily of liquor.
Detective Senior Sergeant Stuart Bailey said parents in the area should be alert and mindful of what they do.
“This is obviously extremely concerning for Victoria Police if this is a random abduction,” he said.
“We think it’s completely random at this point in time.
“We need to be careful and alert, given what’s taken place at this present time.”
The warning comes after the body of a child, believed to be that of Sanaya, was found in a creek in Melbourne’s north-east at 2:45am this morning.
The body was found by a family of four, including a child, who were searching for the girl after seeing a Facebook post requesting help from volunteers.
The family, who had also lost a child in the past whom they later found alive and well, found the toddler partially submerged as they were walking along the western side of Darebin Creek. The child will be taken back to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for a postmortem today.
Sanaya Shaib with her mother Sofina Nikat. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied
Sanaya was abducted from her pram in Olympic Park yesterday. Senior Sergeant Bailey said the toddler’s mother, Sofina Nikat, noticed the suspect walking towards her around 10:10am.
“That male has then folded behind her and has then pushed her to the ground, taken the child from the pram and run in a south-westerly direction on the eastern side of Darebin Creek, and crossed over a footbridge that takes you to the Northland Shopping Centre area and then pershaps towards Wood St,” he said.
“Once the child has been abducted, she (the mother) has chased the offender for a short period of time, realised she wasn’t making any ground there, so she has returned back to her home with the stroller and notified authorities there.
“We notified both the mother and father at 6:45am this morning (that the body had been found) and they are obviously in an extremely distressed state.”
Police don’t know how long the body had been in the creek.
A body has been found on the banks of Darebin creek. Picture: David CroslingSource:News Corp Australia
Crews armed with torches scoured Darebin Creek in Heidelberg West until late last night. Ms Nikat was assisting police, but they stressed she was not being held in custody.
Inspector Paul Tymms urged anyone who knew the location of the child to come forward. He said authorities were hopeful Sanaya was still alive.
Ms Nikat’s older brother, Habib Ali, said the family had been supporting the young mother after she recently separated from her partner. He said his sister had taken an unsettled Sanaya out for a walk but returned home soon after with dirt on her clothing.
Mr Ali said: “She came screaming and crying, she said, ‘Somebody’s snatched my baby’. She was mumbling out of control.
“I just pray to God that whoever’s done this, please return the baby.”
The mother’s family claimed her daughter had been snatched from her pram at a popular park in Melbourne’s northeast.
Inspector Paul Tymms confirmed on Saturday evening that the disappearance was being treated as suspicious.
Sanaya’s uncle Habib Ali told the Herald Sun his sister had been hysterical when she arrived home from a walk without the baby.
“I’m devastated,” Mr Aly said. “This is shocking … why would anyone want to hurt this little girl?
“We just don’t know what to do.”
Sanaya and her mother were visiting Mr Aly’s Heidelberg West home for the day, he said.
He said his sister told family that as they sat down on a park bench she noticed a man watching her.
“She said someone was standing and watching her … but she didn’t make anything of it,” Mr Aly said.
The man then undid the clips in the toddler’s pram, picked up the girl and ran away toward Northland shopping centre, Mr Ali said he’d been told.
Next-door neighbour Melynda Smith said the family were quiet and she had not heard any disturbances.
“We’re just terrified,” Ms Smith said.
“We are shaken up over the situation.
“You hear it in other states, you hear it in other countries … you don’t expect it to happen in your own backyard.”
She said the family was close and had hosted Sanaya’s first birthday party at Mr Aly’s Perth St home.
“They support each other,” Ms Smith said.
“I always see the mother out walking with her, getting fresh air … they are always spending time with the bub and the bub is never out of the mum’s sight.
“She is a very well cared for and looked after little girl.”
Mr Aly said he and his family had been supporting his sister through her separation from her partner, who lived in Hallam.
He said his sister and Sanaya had been staying in Mitcham but visited his home regularly.
The toddler was last seen wearing a short-sleeved white top with pink and yellow hearts, koala print pants, socks, and a black necklace with an oval locket.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au