true crime

Here's what we know about the death of Melbourne toddler Sanaya Sahib.

A family is in mourning and a country in shock following the abduction and death of 15-month-old Sanaya Sahib in Melbourne over the weekend.

A woman has now been charged with the child’s murder. You can read about that here. There is also more information about Sanaya’s “disfunctional” family environment (more detail here).

Here’s what we know about the crime and the short life of baby Sanaya.

via Facebook/SofinaNikat

The abduction and discovery

Sanaya Sahib's mother, Sofina Nikat, 22, told police she was walking along a bike path at Olympic Park Reserve in Melbourne around 10am Saturday when a man violently shoved her to the ground and snatched Sanaya from her pram.

Ms Nikat, currently the sole witness to the abduction, described the kidnapper as being of African appearance, roughly 180cm tall with short dark hair and aged between 20 and 30. She also claimed he was not wearing shoes and smelled strongly of alcohol.

Ms Nikat told police she had tried to chase the man, but he managed to flee across a nearby footbridge towards Northland Shopping Centre.

About 3pm on Sunday, roughly 17 hours after her abduction, the 15-month-old's body was found by locals in Darebin Creek in Heidelberg West.

A family, motivated by memories of their own missing child to take part in the search, made the heartbreaking discovery.

The investigation

The identity of Sanaya's killer remains a mystery, but police say that they are directing every available resource at the case.

According to Homicide Detective Senior Sergeant Stuart Bailey, there is no firm suspect other than the alleged abductor. "We think it's completely random at this point in time," he told ABC.

Police spent the weekend searching the parkland surrounding Darebin Creek, before homicide detectives and forensic crews focused their attention on the Heidelberg West property where Ms Nikat and Sanaya had been staying for a few days prior to the toddler's death.


via Twitter/@lillebuen

It is believed the home belongs to Ms Nikat's uncle, and that she and Sanaya had sought shelter there following her separation from the little girl's father.

The search, which lasted roughly four hours, saw several bags of evidence removed from the home.

It's still unclear how Sanaya died, as the results of a post-mortem are still pending.

The reaction

According to City of Banyule mayor, Craig Langdon, the people of Heidelberg are in shock. "I know the area well enough to know the area will be grieving greatly because it's a very close community," he said. "My thoughts are with the family. It would be a tragic loss to any family, to find a child like that in the Darebin Creek, I can not imagine the grief they're going through."

A makeshift memorial has been established near the site where Sanaya's body was discovered, with locals laying flowers, toys and notes in memory of the little girl.

But according to fill-in 3AW Mornings host Tony Jones, the public aren't nearly concerned enough. “As it stands now, we've got a kidnapping murdering madman on the run and it’s something we should be screaming from the rooftops about,” he said. “There should be some form of hysteria in the town, but I'm not sensing any of that.”

Police have reassured Heidelberg locals that they are taking active steps to keep the community safe, including stationing additional officers in the area for the rest of the week.

Anyone with any information relating to Sanaya Nikat's abduction and death are asked to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

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