A family dispute over the custody of a schoolgirl that started in India two years ago has ended up in British courts, and Scotland Yard on Monday launched an investigation into the whereabouts of the girl and her aunt, both of whom have been missing since April.

Police said Aishley Kapoor (10) was brought to Britain in 2007 by her aunt Seema Kapoor (38) in contravention of an Indian court order which had granted her custody to her parents, though it was stayed following an appeal by Ms. Kapoor.

It is suspected that Ms. Kapoor has gone into hiding with the girl to avoid being deported back to India, as days before the two went missing, a British court had ruled that she should be returned to India for courts there to settle the dispute over her custody.

‘Staying illegally’

Police also said both had overstayed their British visas and were staying on in Britain illegally. In a public appeal seeking information that could lead to their whereabouts, Detective Inspector Sharon Brookes of the Child Abuse Investigation Team said Aishley had been “taken half way round the world” without her parents’ consent or the consent of the Indian courts.

“Since Aishley was taken in April she does not appear to have had any schooling or access to a doctor. Seema loves Aishley and I hope that she would not do her any harm. She has gone to these lengths because she wants to be with Aishley, but as things are, this is not giving Aishley the life she deserves,” Ms. Brookes said.

“Aunt’s claim”

At the heart of the dispute is the aunt’s claim that she adopted Aishley, but in the absence of proof, a court in India granted interim custody to her parents.

In December 2007, the aunt brought her to Britain, prompting Aishley’s parents to move a British court for her to be returned to India.

On April 3 this year, the High Court ordered that Aishley be sent back home and an appeal by Seema Kapoor’s appeal against the order was rejected.

Aishley was last seen at her school in Greenford, west London, on April 24.

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