London, Mar 7: Relatives of three runaway London schoolgirls - believed to have joined Islamic State extremists in Syria, have criticised Scotland Yard for not passing on "vital" information that the trio were at risk of being radicalised.
The families said they might have been able to intervene if they had known one of the girls' friends was already in Syria and police had spoken to the trio about it.
Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, were each given a letter for their parents, but the girls never passed on the letters to their families. Police should have given the letter directly to the families, the relatives said.
The Metropolitan Police said the girls had not been seen as a flight risk. The three girls, students at the Bethnal Green Academy school, are thought to have joined Islamic State in Syria last month, having initially flown to Turkey from London on 17 February.
Kadiza's cousin, Fahmida Aziz, said: "I think it's absolutely crazy for an authority like a school or the police not to inform the parents. They kept us in the dark." Halima Khanon, Kadiza's sister, added: "If we had known what was going on, we would have definitely looked into this... taken precautions with my sister."
Police spoke to Shamima, Amira and Kadiza after a close friend of theirs - a 15-year-old girl who has not been named - ran away to Syria in December. Officers spoke to them again at the beginning of last month and gave them letters to take home to their parents asking permission for counter-terrorism detectives to take handwritten statements about their friend's lifestyle and beliefs.
The girls disappeared three weeks later, having never shown the letters to their parents. Their families found them hidden in the girls' bedrooms.
Amira's father Abase Hussen said he believed he could have stopped her from leaving Britain for Syria. Hussen said: "The message I want to send is 'we love you, we miss you and [can't] imagine life without you'." The Met police said:
"There was nothing to suggest at the time that the girls themselves were at risk and indeed their disappearance has come as a great surprise, not least to their own families." The girls were spoken to in December 2014 as part of the routine enquiry by officers investigating the disappearance of their friend.
"We continue to liaise with the school and local education authority in connection with this ongoing investigation," Met police said.