Elsa Salama: Plea For Abducted Girl's Return

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent

The mother of a little girl who was snatched by Egyptian relatives while on a family holiday has pleaded for her to be returned.

Naomi Button, 39, has not seen her daughter Elsa Salama since she was abducted in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh on December 27, 2011 while visiting relatives.

Elsa's father, Egyptian-born Tamer Salama, 35, is in prison in England for refusing to comply with court orders to return Elsa to her mother.

Standing in her daughter's bedroom in Leeds, which has been kept just as she left it, Ms Button said she finds it difficult to cope.

"The worst times are when I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes I wonder if that's because she's woken up and she's crying for me," she said.

Elsa will be six on February 2 and her mother has set up a Facebook page hoping that making a public appeal will finally bring her daughter home.

"I don't know what she's been told, I don't know if she thinks I didn't want her and I just left her in Egypt and that's mortifying to me," she said.

Salama was jailed in January 2012, having said Elsa was with his mother, but refusing to say where she was being held.

Sentencing him, the judge Mr Justice Mitchell said: "It is unspeakably harmful to the emotional welfare of your daughter.

"It shows me that you are a man with a hard heart, determined only to get your own way."

Last week Salama was jailed for a further 12 months for his continuing failure to comply with court orders to return his daughter to her mother.

The couple met in Sharm el Sheikh in 2005 and were married in Egypt the following year, before moving to Leeds in 2007.

They separated in 2009 but agreed that Elsa should continue to see her family in Egypt.

Ms Button has a custody order in Egypt and the support of the Child Abduction Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Her lawyer, Kate Bannerjee, who heads the children's department at Jones Myers and is a panel member of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit, warns that parental child abduction is on the increase.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Child Abduction Section is receiving an average of four calls per day," she said.

"Understanding of parental child abduction is alarmingly low and cases can take years to resolve."

Ms Button has kept a pile of unopened Christmas presents in her daughter's room.

"I know that she wants to be back home with Mummy," she told us.

"My mission in life is to find my daughter and, no matter how long that takes, to be here for her.

"I want her to come back and see how her life was, so I do everything I can to find her but also to maintain the life she had, and that's what I get up for every day."

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