Hunt on for ‘coward’ killer of Melbourne toddler

The grieving uncle of a toddler found dead in a Melbourne creek has warned his neighbours to beware the shameful coward who abducted and killed his niece.

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The body of 15-month-old Sanaya Sahib was found in Darebin Creek just early on Sunday, less than a day after Sofina Nikat says her daughter was snatched from her pram at a nearby park.

Police on Monday would not say whether security cameras in parkland barely 100 metres from where the girl’s body was found were operating.

Officers said their investigation was continuing and they were out in force in the area and parks to reassure the community.

Sanaya and her mother had been staying with Ms Nikat’s brother, Habib Ali, who warned neighbours on Monday from walking in the park alone with their children.

“Whoever done it, shame on him. He’s a coward and he shouldn’t have done what he has done,” Mr Ali told reporters on Monday.

“Don’t go to the parks alone at night or in the morning or anything. Just keep very, very careful.”

Mr Ali said his sister was hysterical and in the hands of social workers.

“She’s really … shocked and crying a lot,” he said.

“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.

Ms Nikat, 22, told police her daughter was grabbed by a shoeless man of African appearance who smelled of alcohol about 10am on Saturday.

She said she was pushed to the ground by the man who ran off with her daughter towards a nearby shopping centre.

She had given chase in vain before returning to the Heidelberg West house of Mr Ali about a kilometre away, from where she raised the alarm.

Mr Ali said he had a lot of sympathy for Sanaya’s shocked father.

He said his sister was separated from her husband but did not want to give personal details, saying the family wanted to be left in peace.

Mr Ali says both sides of Sanaya’s family in Fiji were praying for the “little angel”.

“She didn’t deserve it … such a cute little kid,” he said.

Floral bouquets and stuffed toys waiting to be cuddled scatter the banks of the creek in tribute to the little “sweetheart”.

“So very sorry for your family, our heart breaks with them,” one note reads.

Another message further along the narrow creek wishes for the “little angel” to fly high.

With her eight-month-old girl in her arms, an emotional mother left flowers at the house of Sanaya’s uncle.

“I can relate to going to a park without a phone – just wanting to be at the park with your baby,” Vicky Gogas told reporters on Monday.

“I don’t know why I’m so emotional … As a mother (myself), the feeling of losing a new baby is so raw.”