Couple with four young children feared to have fled from England to Syria
Police are continuing an international search for a Muslim couple with four young children who are feared to have fled England for Syria.
Members of Asif Malik's distraught family yesterday issued a desperate plea for the 31-year-old to come home, after the six vanished from their home in Slough.
Mr Malik, his partner Sara Kiran and their children aged seven to one were seen boarding a ferry from Dover to Calais on April 8 before travelling south through Europe by train, according to Thames Valley Police.
Detectives have scoured CCTV images in the hope of tracing the family.
In a statement released through police last night, Mr Malik's family said the six "left the UK without any notice".
Speaking of their "complete devastation", they said: "We are totally distraught, upset and in shock. The greatest sadness is the decision by Asif and Sara to travel with their young family, such beautiful children."
In what will be seen as a direct plea to Mr Malik, the family said: "Please Asif, we ask you to think about what has happened and the decisions you have made.
"Please can you ring us or send us a message to let us know that you and the children are well. All we wish for is your safe return and especially the return of the children. We are not angry with you, we are just heartbroken."
Police are stressing it is still a missing persons inquiry, but are deeply concerned the direction of travel appears to be towards Syria where brutal jihadi group Islamic State (Isil) are fighting to establish a Muslim caliphate.
Deputy Chief Constable John Campbell said: "I think its legitimate for us to hope for the best, but fear for the worst."
He added the force would be "happy to be proved wrong", and urged the family to make contact and put any concerns to rest.
Police have now revealed Mr Malik had previously told wider family "he would like to live in a Muslim country", said Mr Campbell.
Mr Malik's partner is 29, and the couple have a seven-year-old daughter named Zoha Malik, and sons; Essa Malik, four, Zakariya Malik, two, and Yhaya Malik, one.
Officers think the group caught the 12.30am ferry from Dover 12 days ago, and might have travelled across Europe, by train, and through Budapest on or around Sunday, April 12.
Mr Campbell said: "Given the online rhetoric from the Islamic State encouraging people to travel to Syria, the direction of travel and concerns voiced by Asif's family, we are concerned the family may be seeking to travel to Syria."
Police inquiries have revealed the family's "general direction of travel is towards Turkey", and "potentially towards Syria".
Police have also admitted they may be too late to stop Mr Malik and his family, given the time that has elapsed since the British passport holders left the UK - they were only reported missing on Thursday, April 16.
"We're concerned about the gap between the time when they left the UK, on April 8, and the time on the 12th in Budapest," said Mr Campbell.
"There is a concern that if that was their intention, and we're making an assumption that it was, that they may have already travelled or be in Syria."
He said it was Mr Malik's family who reported them missing, but that "there was no suggestion from the family that they thought they were going towards Syria".
Mr Campbell said the police were not aware of any social services contact with the children, prior to their parents taking them abroad.
He said police were "reaching out" to Mr Malik and his partner to make contact as soon as possible, and allay any concerns about their possible intentions.
Mr Campbell also confirmed police had spoken to the Turkish authorities, and were working with police in Europe.
Anyone with any information about where the family are should call Thames Valley Police on 101. The freephone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number is 0800 789 321.