India: Parental abduction: From mere marital dispute to international crime


KOCHI: Even before he turned five, Samuel James Robert Pierce had to shuttle between the homes of his parents who were proceeding with a divorce. He was sneaked out of India to England by his father this month, an act dubbed by the mother and bureaucrats as an instance of international parental child abduction.What the court and the world perceived as a custody world perceived as a custody war between parents, became a global crime on the very first day of the year when James Pierce (the father) failed to return the child to his mother on the stipulated date after a short interim custody period. Anna Mathews (the mother) was forced to open up her private life to the world on January 13.The court had granted her permanent custody of the child.


“Today , I got out of bed at 9 am, with my head spinning from the stress of not knowing the whereabouts of my baby since December 31. My estranged husband, James Peirce aka Tom, a British citizen living in India for the past decade on a tourist visa, has been absconding with him,” Mathews wrote on her Facebook timeline, seeking help to find the boy . The post that created waves on social media was shared by thousands. She managed to get in touch with exter nal affairs minister Sushma Swaraj through Twitter. But all efforts couldn’t prevent James from managing travel documents to UK from the high commissionerate at Kathmandu

British national James Robert Edward Pierce, in the first week of January , approached the British high commission to get emergency travel documents to return to his homeland with his son. However, this was made possible only because his son had British citizenship. “I don’t know when or how he managed to secure a British passport for our son. He must have filed the application from India. It was not taken with my consent,” she said.


She said that she came to know about the passport when Pierce produced it before the foreigner regional registration office, claiming it as an exit pass for the boy. “I had taken an Indian passport for Samuel.However, authorities made me surrender the same because of the British passport. However, the original British passports of both the child and the father is in the custody of the high court,” she said.

Pierce decided to go undercover after notifying the same at court. His lawyer notified the court about going to Goa adding that he intends to not disclose his identity. Fort Kochi police camped in Goa for a few days and returned empty handed as Pierce had left India before they even reached Goa.


According to former entry clearance officer (Visa) in UK (High Commission of India, London) and criminologist Ajithkumar Nair, the passport mechanism in the UK is far advanced. “If a person has taken a passport, details about the same can be obtained using the number or fingerprint of the holder. The one time exit pass is usually issued to tourists who have lost their passports. The pass obtained by the duo should be a similar one. However, they will undergo further scrutiny on landing in England,” said Nair. Quoting external affairs ministry sources, Nair hinted that the duo had landed in England. “There is a chances that the home department of England will intervene and arrange the return of the child,” he said. Legal experts suggests that the external affairs ministry will be directed to contact the British high commission and their home department to bring back the child.

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