The three missing school girls allegedly stole jewellery from their families to fund their trip to Syria.
Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier today, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of counter terrorism for the Metropolitan Policae said the girls paid more than £1,000 in cash for their plane tickets to Turkey and bought them from a local travel agent.
The relatives of the missing girls said they did not know how the flight tickets were paid for. Sahima Begum, older sister of 16-year-old Shamima Begum, said her sister did not have access to that type of money.
A handwritten list detailing items they needed to buy was discovered in one of the schoolgirls’ bedrooms. The list appears to be in keeping with an online guide for Isis recruits, and mentions things such as a mobile phone for £75, a £50 epilator, an overcoat for £10 and two sets of underwear for £12, as well as the cost of travelling to Syria.
The three school girls took a flight from Gatwick to Turkey on February 17, and are believed to have since crossed the border into an area in Syria that is held by Isis.
Noted on a page from a diary and planner, the list and it’s written total of what is assumed to be 2190 pounds sterling, includes money for visas, a coach, a hotel, a taxi and some extra cash.
On the question of how the girls got the money, Rowley said that the police think the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery from their families.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe apologised for the letters that were not recieved by their parents. The letters, concerning a friend of the three girls, who was also a student at Bethnal Green Academy in Tower Hamlets and went missing in December, were handed to a total of seven girls by Met Police, rather than to their families.
Even though Hogan-Howe apologised for the letters, he also said that the police could not have done more to prevent the girls leaving for Syria. He told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “In hindsight, we now know that these girls were planning to go and neither the family, the police, the school nor anyone else realised that.”
The families of the three girls said they had not seen the letters and therefore had no indications of the girls being radicalised. They said that they would have contacted the school if they had any suspicions of this happening.
Tasnime Akunjee, the family’s solicitor, said that if the families had been informed about the letters and the possible radicalisation, they may have been able to address the issue with the girls before they left the country.
Sahima Begum said: “I feel so let down by the police because we gave them everything.” Begum added that if parents were more aware of things to look out for situations like this would not happen.
Fahmida Aziz, first cousin to 16-year-old Kadiza Sultana, said they should be able to turn to schools for support when they fear their children may be radicalized. “It’s very difficult […] as a mother I think it’s quite crucial to have communication with the school, but it’s got to be a two way street. The school can’t initiate it, of course we have to initiate it.”
“We want her to come back. We want her to be safe. We still need to rely on services that will help us do it, and bring her back safely.”
One of the girls was very active on social media and followed over a hundred extremists online.
Rowley said that 87 people has been reported missing by their families to the police within the last 12 months, and are believed to have travelled abroad. 26 of them are women.
The police promised that if the three girls would return to the UK they will be able to return to their families, not to prison as there is “no evidence” of the girls being involved in terrorism.