Court hears from Manitoba mom fighting parental abduction charge


November 26 , 2014

Source: winnipegfreepress.com

A Westman mother accused of parental abduction — arrested as she was about to board a plane to Australia with her son — testified that she’d always intended to return to Manitoba.

Parental Kidnapping Australia

She says she was taking her son to visit her family for Christmas when, to her surprise, she was arrested by U.S. marshalls at the Los Angeles International Airport.

“I was in shock, I was scared, I was in disbelief,” the mother testified during her trial in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday.

The Brandon Sun isn’t naming the parties involved in the case, in order to protect the identity of the boy who was seven-years-old at the time.

Court heard the incident came in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart.

The mother is originally from Australia. She and her husband met in that country in the mid-90s, wed in November 2001, and had a son.

The family moved to Canada, specifically to Westman, in 2008.

On Dec. 14, 2011 — the marriage crumbling — the mother picked up her son at school. She then drove with the boy to Minot, North Dakota and flew to L.A., via Minneapolis.

The father testified that on Dec. 14 2011, he returned to the family’s Westman home from work to find it in darkness.

Some of his wife’s jewelry was missing, and so were many of her and his son’s clothes. About $500 and some cash and travel bags were also gone.

While he guessed his wife and son may be headed for Australia, he said he didn’t really know where they’d gone and feared for their safety.

He couldn’t reach his wife when he texted and called her cellphone.

A call to his son’s teacher, his wife’s friends and her family in Australia failed to determine his family’s whereabouts.

It was then that he called RCMP who issued an amber alert.

RCMP contacted border officials and U.S. authorities, and determined that mother and son had a flight booked from LA to Australia.

Following her arrest at the LA airport, the mother was held at in a jail in that city until Feb. 24, 2012 when she was extradited to Canada with her consent.

After his wife’s arrest, the father travelled to LA to pick up his son, who had been placed in a foster home overnight, and brought him home to Canada.

His son was left confused and upset by the ordeal, the father testified.

Child Kidnapping Parent

Prior to the incident, he said, his wife had asked about the possibiliy of moving with her son back to Australia after the couple separated.

The father said he was against that idea, and hadn’t given his consent for his wife to travel with their son to LA or beyond.

While they’d discussed separation, there were no family court proceedings underway, so both parties had joint custody of their son at the time.

On her part, the mother testified that she needed space from her husband to think about their separation.

She’d learned that her husband had started to pursue a relationship with another woman.

Originally, she’d planned to take her son to a Brandon hotel for a getaway, but was worried her husband would stop by.

She was scared when her husband delivered a look of “pure hatred,” she testified, and made a snap decision to make good on a previous plan to take her son to Australia to visit her family for Christmas.

In LA, she called her family who booked the tickets for the leg to Australia.

She said she left without telling her husband, but he’d known she’d wanted to travel to her home country. She intended to call her husband from there, she said, and always intended to return to Manitoba.

Initially, upon her return to Canada, she was placed on a bail with an order to have no contact with her son.

However, court heard that she and her estranged husband now share equal access to their son who splits his time between his parents’ homes.

“He’s happy. He loves his mom, he loves his dad,” the mother testified. “He’s glad he sees us both.”

The trial continues today.

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Parental Abduction – U.S. Woman Enters Plea in International Kidnap Case


September 30 , 2014

Source: abcnews

A woman accused of abducting her infant daughter from South Carolina 20 years ago pleaded not guilty Monday during her first court appearance after being extradited from Australia.

Dorothy lee barnett

Dorothy Lee Barnett, 54, entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Bristow Marchant. Her attorney requested that her bond hearing be delayed.

Barnett faces a count of parental kidnapping and two counts of falsifying U.S. passport applications. Authorities allege she did not have custody of her then 10-month-old daughter Savanna Catherine Todd when she took her from South Carolina back in 1994.

Barnett was found in Australia last year where she had been living under several aliases. She fought extradition but was finally returned to the United States last week.

Her attorney, Russell W. Mace III, told the judge he needs time to contact Barnett’s family and friends from out of state and out of the country to come vouch for his client. At a bond hearing a judge decides whether a defendant can be released after weighing whether he or she is a flight risk.

Mace told the judge his client had been back since Friday and he only met her for the first time Saturday.

He told reporters later that he has been in contact with Barnett by telephone since she was arrested and jailed in Australia last November. He would not comment further.

Barnett appeared before the judge in a gray-striped prison jumpsuit and there were shackles on her hands as she signed the court papers acknowledging her plea. She did not comment except to tell the judge she understood both the charges and that she would have to remain in jail at least until the bond hearing.

Conviction on the charges carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.

Authorities said that in 1994, Barnett left for a birthday party with her daughter and never returned. The previous year Barnett had filed for divorce from her husband, Benjamin Harris Todd III, a Bowling Green, Kentucky, native and former Charleston stockbroker.

The daughter has since been living a normal life in Australia, authorities said.

Prosecutors have not yet said just how Barnett was found in Australia after almost two decades.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, who told the judge the government will oppose bond, would not comment following the hearing.

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Parental Abduction: Mother wins bid not to return with her child to Germany


September 24

Source: The Sydney morning herald 

A woman who unlawfully took custody of her daughter from her German husband has successfully argued in court that she and the child should remain in Australia because returning to Germany would expose her to “psychological harm”.

Australia

The 35-year-old Australian woman travelled to Melbourne from Germany with her 61-year-old husband and five-year-old daughter in December last year to visit her family.

But when it was time to return to Germany, she told her husband she wanted a separation and refused to leave the country.

When the father refused to leave, the woman and her family called the police and obtained an interim intervention order against him.

Soon after arriving back in Germany, the father formally sought return of the child to Germany and launched proceedings for custody, armed with expert evidence that he had “a close and loving relationship with the child”.

However, the mother presented evidence that she had been anxious and depressed since 2007 and this was so severely exacerbated by returning to Germany there was a grave risk her daughter would be “exposed to an intolerable situation”.

“[I] had frequent anxiety attacks, was experiencing feelings of intense fear and worry, my heart would race,” the woman told a psychiatrist of her experience of being in Germany.

She said her husband was “unsympathetic and dismissive” of her illness and, as a result, she had to abandon taking medication or seeking therapy and her condition began to deteriorate.

The woman said she had been a victim of violence and emotional abuse by the father, who drank heavily and tightly controlled her access to the family’s finances.

German football fan

He also allegedly isolated her from her family and made it difficult for her to make friends in Germany.

The husband strenuously denied these allegations and argued that mental health treatment was available in Germany, which would at least enable her to return to take part in a custody hearing.

But Justice Kirsty Macmillan of the Family Court of Australia disagreed.

“I am satisfied … it is not possible to fashion safeguards which would adequately protect the mother from a major depressive episode and ultimately from the effects of a major deterioration in her mental health,” Justice Macmillan found.

This was “likely to impact on the mother’s parenting capacity”.

Her honour rejected demands that the mother returned to Germany, allowing her and the child to remain in Australia.

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Queensland mother Dorothy Lee Barnett to be extradited to US for alleged child abduction


September 4 , 2014

Source: Brisbanetimes

A mother accused of abducting her infant daughter 20 years ago will be extradited to the United States.

The federal government has ordered Dorothy Lee Barnett, 53, be surrendered to US authorities to face international parental kidnapping charges, despite an appeal from her lawyers.

Ms Barnett was arrested on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last year and charged with kidnapping her 10-month-old daughter, Savannah Todd, in 1994 and fleeing the US.

A digitally aged photo of Dorothy Lee Barnett released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children during the search for the alleged kidnapper.

A digitally aged photo of Dorothy Lee Barnett released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children during the search for the alleged kidnapper. Photo: Supplied

In November 2013 Australian and US police found Ms Barnett and her daughter, who now goes by the name of ­Samantha Geldenhuys, living in the suburb of Mountain Creek, west of Mooloolaba.

When arrested, Ms Barnett consented to extradition but then reneged.

Her lawyers asked the federal government to prevent the extradition, but federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan ordered this week that Ms Barnett be surrendered.

Savannah Harris Todd was taken when she was 11 months old.
Savannah Harris Todd was discovered at the age of 20 living in Australia.

Savannah Harris Todd was discovered at the age of 20 living in Australia

“The minister arrived at his determination following careful consideration of the provisions of Australia’s extradition law and taking into account representations made by, and on behalf of, Ms Barnett,” a government spokeswoman said in a statement to Fairfax Media.

According to US authorities, Samantha’s American father, millionaire stockbroker Benjamin Harris Todd III, had been granted sole custody of the then-10-month-old.

It is alleged Ms Barnett left for a birthday party with her infant daughter in South Carolina and never returned.

Mr Todd has spent the last two decades searching for his daughter, making public appeals for information on her whereabouts and circulating age-progressed photos of Samantha and her mother on international missing persons websites.

Ms Barnett is alleged to have fled to Europe on a false passport, changing her name to Alexandra Canton.

In 1995, she married a man named Juan Geldenhuys in South Africa with whom she had a son.

The family moved to New Zealand, before settling in Australia in 2007.

Mr Geldenhuys returned to South Africa about five years ago and is believed to have died from bone cancer in October, just weeks before his former wife’s arrest.

Samantha attended the local high school on the Sunshine Coast and, after graduating, moved to Townsville to study nursing at James Cook University, where she found a boyfriend in an engineering student.

Ms Barnett faces more than a decade in a US prison if convicted of international parental kidnapping and passport-related offences.

She has remained in custody since her arrest last year, but has regular visits from her daughter and son.

US authorities have two months in which to escort Ms Barnett to the US, subject to any application for a review of Mr Keenan’s order.

 

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Countries around the world honor International Missing Children’s Day on May 25


May 25 , 2013

International Missing Children’s Day on May 25

To commemorate International Missing Children’s Day, law enforcement and non-governmental organisations across four continents are holding events to raise awareness about the need for collaboration and a coordinated response to help protect children from abduction and going missing.

fighting-missing-children2

They are part of the Global Missing Children’s Network – a program of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) – which helps bring attention to the vulnerability of children who are missing and abducted.

It’s a problem facing every country and it needs the attention of law enforcement and government officials around the world.  It is estimated that at least 8 million children worldwide go missing each year or 22,000 a day. Unfortunately, many countries do not view it as a priority and thus don’t have appropriate mechanisms in place to recover missing children who are at high risk of being exploited into trafficking and prostitution. Every country should implement policies and legislation to tackle the issue and protect children’s right to grow up in a safe environment. This will require coordinated efforts between all sectors from law enforcement agencies, government, and non-governmental agencies to private industry.

Arizona_Missing_Girl_Carr_t618

It is also important to teach children how to stay safe and inform them of risks they may encounter. To achieve this, adults should take the time to provide children with the tools they need to recognise danger and to talk with them about specific ways to stay safe. ICMEC, through the Global Network, has developed prevention tips to help parents, guardians and other adults discuss safety with children. These tips are available in 10 different languages.

Each year, since 1983, May 25 has been commemorated to remember children who are still missing, children who have been reunited with their families, and to help bring this global issue to the attention of government and society.

 

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International Parental Child Abduction – Child Recovery Services


May 6, 2013

Watch our new video about International Parental Child Abduction and Child Recovery Services

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMo8e1UcNRM

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Dad makes film in bid to find abducted daughter


March 18, 2013

Source: ninemsn

A filmmaker desperate to reunite with his abducted daughter has made a movie he hopes will inspire her to find him a decade after she was taken away.

Brozzi Lunetta has been searching for his 11-year-old daughter Reya since she was abducted by her mother Camilla Ellefsen, 40, as a baby during a bitter custody dispute in 2002, the Herald Sun reports.

660902-lunetta

After more than 10 years searching and failed attempts by Australian authorities to track the pair down, Mr Lunetta has made the feature film “Reya” so that “my daughter can find me”.

“It’s my way to use a fictional tale to get the story out there again, to remind people that my daughter is still missing,” Mr Lunetta told News Limited.

“Perhaps if we could get Camilla’s face out there it would lead to new information.”

The film is about an investigator who comes to believe a 20-year-old murder victim is his daughter who disappeared 20 years earlier.

Reya Lunetta pictured before she went missing in 2002. She is now 11 years old. (image supplied)

Reya Lunetta pictured before she went missing in 2002. She is now 11 years old. (image supplied)

Many actors including Yohanna Idha, who won best actress at the Stockholm International Film Festival in 2011, worked on the project for free.

Reya was abducted while in the US and taken to Norway and India before entering Australia through Perth on a Norwegian passport in February 2004.

camilla-ellefsen-1

Mr Lunetta, an American filmmaker who has since re-married, believes his daughter Reya is currently living with her fugitive mother in south-east Queensland.

Both mother and child currently remain listed as missing by the Family Childrens Court of Australia after numerous reported sightings since 2004.

Australian Federal Police came under criticism in 2010 after a bungled raid on a northern NSW home where Ms Ellefsen was believed to be hiding out allowed her to slip through the net.

Police now say the girl has been removed from Australia and taken back to Norway – a claim Mr Lunetta disputes.

Camilla Ellefsen is believed to be in hiding in with her daughter Reya in Australia. (image supplied)

Camilla Ellefsen is believed to be in hiding in with her daughter Reya in Australia. (image supplied)

“There were tonnes of proof that she entered Australia from India into Perth but there’s no proof whatsoever that she left,” he said.

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Parental Child Abduction – Organisations for Left Behind Parents


February 24, 2013

By Martin Waage, ABP World Group Ltd.

happychild

Knowledge and support is needed when the other parent abducts your child/children. There are many organisations run by parents of abducted children, that can provide assistance and counselling and give answers on what to do in the critical first hours, days and weeks. They will also be able to help you find a experienced lawyer that specialises in International Child Abduction Cases.

This is a few of them:

Bachome ( United States)

Reunite ( United Kingdom)

CRN Japan ( United States)

Bring Sean Home Foundation ( United States)

Bortført.no ( Norway) 

Bortført ( Denmark)

Australians With Abducted Children ( Australia)

iCHAPEAU Association ( Canada)

SBN Saknade Barns Närverk ( Sweden)

Please let us know, if there are other organisations you think should be on this list.

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Child Abduction Statistics


February 10, 2013 Source: masonichip.org

Parental child abduction – We offer needed support
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The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART) has placed cases into five categories…… Children 1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges. 2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. Coerced and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour. 3. Runaways – Children that have left home without permission and stayed away overnight and during the course of their runaway episodes, were without a secure and familiar place to stay. These also include children who have run away from a juvenile facility. 4. Thrownaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

  • The child was told to leave the household.
  • The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.
  • The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.
  • The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

  • Children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.
  • Parental Kidnapping / Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

More than 350,000 family abductions occur in the U.S. each year, that is nearly 1,000 per day ! 163,000 of these cases involve the concealment of a child, transporting out of state, or intent to keep the child permanently Parental Kidnapping Study Results:

  • The child has experienced serious mental harm in 16% of the cases (56,000)
  • The child has experienced physical abuse or harm in 8% of the cases
  • (The University of Maryland found a 24% incidence of physical abuse)
  • The child is sexually abused in 1% of the cases (The University of Maryland found a 7% incidence of sexual abuse)
  • Mothers flee with children in 54% of the cases
  • Fathers flee with children in 46% of the cases

Case settlements:

  • one-third of all cases settled within 30 days / 80% of all cases settled within a year
  • one-half of all cases settled within 60 days / 90% of all cases settled within two years

Factors Contributing to Parental Kidnappings:

  • In 1998, there will be an estimated 1 million divorces, affecting more than 1 million children
  • There are 10 million children, living with a single parent who is separated, or divorced 150,000 divorces, or 1 in 7 involve child custody battles
  • Today’s average marriage will last about seven years
  • Single-parent families has quadrupled since 1960
  • Divorces have tripled in numbers since 1960

(Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) The National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

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Singapore, Albania and Ukraine sign the Hague Convention on Child Abduction treaty


February 2, 2013

Source: neurope.eu

The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, the main international treaty that covers international parental child abduction, today came into force between Australia and three additional countries: Singapore, Albania and the Ukraine.    

ukraine

As Attorney-General of Australia, Nicola Roxon stated: “Child abduction cases are incredibly complex, but the Hague Convention can play a role in helping to resolve these very difficult cases. I’m pleased that the Convention is now in force between Australia and Singapore, Albania and the Ukraine. This creates a stronger process to resolve international parental abduction cases, and will assist with access arrangements across these international borders.” And added: “The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the return of Australian children who are wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another country.”

The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, aiming to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by facilitating their return to the country where they normally live. The treaty also foresees that issues of residence and contact can be resolved by the courts of the child’s residence country.

Abducted_American_japanese-children

Consequently, parents whose children were abducted to Singapore, Albania and the Ukraine before  February 1, 2013 may be eligible to apply for contact with their children under the access provisions of the Hague Convention.

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