Toddler killer walks with empty pram

By Matt Young, Andrew Koubaridis

The mother of 14-month-old Sanaya Sahib has confessed to killing her toddler after being charged with murder by homicide detectives today.

Mitcham woman Sofina Nikat, 22, faced an out-of-court hearing at approximately 5:45pm Tuesday after the child was found dead in Darebin Creek early on Sunday morning.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stuart Bailey said Nikat made a "full confession" in a police interview over the death of the young girl.

She was pictured covering her face with a copy of the Quran while being driven into court between two detectives after being kept in an "undisclosed location".

Dressed in thongs and a dark cardigan she held the book in her hand throughout and spoke quietly to say she had been looked after while in custody.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton on Tuesday tweeted: "Tks [Thanks] to our members for their hard work on this".

The family of the deceased said they had no comment when asked if they knew of the recent developments, but according to Channel Ten crime reporter Sharnelle Vella, "police phoned the family a short time ago alerting them to the fact she [Sofina] had been charged".

Tragic end to major manhunt

A post mortem is expected to show she died of smothering, the Herald Sunreports. However police media said the results have not been finalised.

Police said "Investigators are no longer looking for anyone else in relation to this investigation," but refused to go into any further detail over the allegations surrounding the woman.

The charges come after Sanaya's body was found in a creek about 2.45am Sunday, hours after her mother Sofina Nikat claimed a shoeless African man smelling of alcohol abducted her 14-month-old daughter while she was walking with her in Melbourne's Olympic Park on Saturday afternoon.

The mother's account sparked a major manhunt involving mounted police, members of the public and SES. No independent witnesses have come forward to confirm the 22-year-old's account.

Police are scouring CCTV footage from the scene, but have not commented on what was captured on the cameras near the park.


Channel Seven reporter Karen O'Sullivan told Nick McCallum on Melbourne's 3AW footage was also taken from security cameras outside a resident's house nearby.

"The woman clearly is walking with a pram, it's difficult to determine immediately what is in the pram as she walks towards the park and towards the road that leads to Darebin Creek," she said.

"However on the way back, the pram is clearly empty."

Family say child 'didn't deserve' to die

Earlier, Sofina Nikat's uncle Habib Ali told the Herald Sun an ambulance was called to his Heidelberg West home, where the mother and daughter had been staying, a week before the child's death because Sanaya suffered a seizure.

Mr Ali dismissed the episode as "nothing really", but paramedics were worried it had been triggered through a lack of oxygen via smothering, the Herald Sun reported.

Mr Ali told media outside his home Sanaya "didn't deserve" what happened to her. She's such a cute little kid ... I don't know why this happened. Whoever done it, shame on him, he is a coward."

Ms Nikat and Sanaya had been living with Mr Ali after she split with Sameer Sahib, Sanaya's father.

Mr Ali said Ms Nikat was shocked and "crying a lot" after the death of the child.

"She doesn't know what to do or what's going on, obviously."

He said the family still did not know what had happened to Sanaya or how she died. They also had sympathy for Mr Sahib who is struggling to understand what has happened.

Fairfax reported on Tuesday two men that Sanaya had contact with in recent days were facing serious criminal charges, including family violence and assault.

Tributes for young girl

Dozens of people have also left flowers and cards for the toddler near the creek where her body was found. Photo: Facebook / Supplied
Dozens of people have also left flowers and cards for the toddler near the creek where her body was found. Photo: Facebook / Supplied

The tributes for Sanaya continued last night with soccer players from Heidelberg United Football Club last night observing a minute's silence for Sanaya before their match against Port Melbourne.

Dozens of people have also left flowers and cards for the toddler near the creek where her body was found.

One crying woman said she didn't know the family bit couldn't believe something so tragic could happen in their community.

"RIP sweetheart. So very sorry for your family, our heart breaks with them," read one of the many cards left alongside a soft pink toy.

Timeline of events

• 10am Saturday 9 April - Sofina Nikat tells police a man smelling of alcohol had snatched her daughter from her pram while they were walking through Olympic Reserve in Heidelberg West.

• 2.45am Sunday 10 April - Sanaya Sahib's body is found submerged in Darebin Creek near where her mother told police the girl had been snatched.

• 8.45am Tuesday 12 April - Nikat arrested by police in Mont Albert.

• 6pm Tuesday 12 April - Sofina Nikat faces out-of-sessions court charged with one count of murder after police say she made full admissions to killing her daughter

-additional reporting: AAP

- news.com.au

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