Mother accused of international parental kidnapping back home


June 16, 2015

Source: The Clarion-Ledger

A mother accused of kidnapping her son and fleeing to Egypt is back in the states and charged with international parental kidnapping.

Jennifer Michelle Houff

On Monday, Jennifer Houff, 38, had her initial appearance in U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball’s courtroom, charged in the international kidnapping of her son, Blake Cleveland. She was released to the custody of her parents on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Houff is accused of disappearing with her son in March 2012, when he was 13, and eventually fleing with him to Egypt. According to her testimony in court, she returned Saturday.

Ball said Houff will have to report to the federal courthouse in Jackson on Wednesday to receive a GPS device that will keep up with her whereabouts. She is restricted to her parents’ home and must call her probation officer every day, Ball told her.

Houff’s attorney, John Colette, said Cleveland, now 16, is accounted for.

“We know where Blake is, and we’re going to defend these charges. She agreed to come back and resolve this thing,” Colette said. “A lot of time has gone by under the bridge, about three and a half years since the last hearing.”

Egypt_Child_Abduction

Asked whether there were amicable relations between Houff and Blake’s father’s side of the family, Colette said, “At this point I don’t have comments about this. We’re just glad to get her out on bond.”

Colette said Houff will seek employment as she awaits further court proceedings. She is required to stay in the state and report any relocation or new phone numbers to her probation officer. She also is required to turn in her passport and is prohibited from using alcohol and drugs or dealing with guns and other weapons.

Cleveland’s father, Danny Cleveland, has maintained blogs and social media sites asking for help in bringing his son home. His family was on hand Monday but would not comment, citing the investigation.

“As a family, we are relieved to have Blake back home,” Danny Cleveland said.

A federal warrant was issued for Houff in 2014.

The Jackson office of the FBI worked with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department through the FBI Legal Attache office in Cairo, Egypt, and the Justice and State departments to locate Houff.

“The far-reaching resources of the FBI and the Department of Justice were instrumental in locating and facilitating the safe return of both the accused and the victim, said Donald Alway, special agent in charge of the FBI in Mississippi.

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Border Controls: Beefing up Passports to Prevent Parental Child Abduction


September 11, 2013

Source: The Huffington Post

For most children, summer conjures up thoughts of carefree, school-free days in the sunshine, holidays and fun.

Sadly, some of their parents do not feel as upbeat. It’s not just that they recognise the intricacies involved in balancing childcare and jobs, the effect of boisterous kids on their eardrums or the expense of keeping offspring entertained until they return to the classroom.

MotherAndChild

Many separated parents understand how difficult it can be to put their children’s welfare first when relations with their former partners become strained. Indeed, anxieties which resident parents believe to be entirely natural can become even more heightened when their exes want to take children abroad on holiday.

Some fear their family becoming another statistic, adding to the growing number of children who are abducted by their parents.

Last December, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) released figures showing that the number of abductions had risen by 88 per cent in a decade. In the 12 months to September last year, the FCO recorded 512 abductions by parents and featured 84 different countries.

A framework, established by the 1980 Hague Convention, allows for children to be speedily returned to their homes while the underlying problems that prompted their being taken are resolved.

The problem is that only 89 countries are currently signatories to the Convention. It can take years to locate and return those children taken to states which haven’t yet signed up to the Convention.

As a result of that complication and the general increase in cases of parental child abduction, official efforts have been stepped up to find a workable means of stopping such incidents happening in the first place.

Last year, a meeting of Hague signatory states proposed a new ‘consent to travel form’ added to passports in order to identify those parents legally entitled to take their children overseas and, conversely, those mothers or fathers who had restrictions preventing them from doing so.

Talks followed with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations which regulates air travel and the global passport system, but have so far yielded no definite results.

ChildAbduction

The Hague initiative did at least give rise to further exploration of the subject by the European Commission. Detailed research led to a report to the European Parliament at the start of this month.

In part, it confirmed what practitioners in parental child abduction cases, including myself and my colleagues in Pannone’s Family department, had long suspected. It described how the current system of combatting abductions is flawed and highlighted how little information has been compiled about children at risk of being taken across borders.

Adding further relevant information to passports, perhaps in a manner similar to that proposed by Hague Convention signatories, was one possible solution put forward.

Such a method would complement the passport system already in place and potentially overcome the inconsistencies both between countries and even in different regions of the same country which can have damaging consequences for parents trying to avert abductions and, of course, their children.

There would, naturally, be more administration to enhance current arrangements and that work would cost money. Who would pay – and how – has not been discussed to date.

What the Hague Convention and now European Commission have begun, though, is to develop momentum towards a resolution of an issue of pressing concern. A European directive would only affect those countries in the Community and certainly – sadly – not be worldwide. Those gaps would need to be filled in a later point.

However, it represents a start. To those parents who have experienced the agony of having a child abducted and exhausted money and time trying to have them returned to their homes, that first step is a critical one.

They will be hoping the authorities’ attempts to action a scheme to stop children boarding planes or boats does take off.

 

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Court-appointed visitation supervisor charged in parental abduction case


August 29, 2013

Source: The Republic.com

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine woman appointed by a court to supervise a visit between a mother and children has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after the mother and kids fled the state.

teacher_child

Jennifer Dore of Benton was the court-appointed visitation supervisor for Bethmarie Retamozzo. Authorities say she allowed Retamozzo to drive away with her children on Aug. 15 from Waterville.

Police say the 37-year-old Dore didn’t disclose the information to police until over five hours after Retamozzo left. Police said she placed the children at risk.

Retamozzo is being held without bail at the Kennebec County Jail on two felony counts of criminal restraint by a parent. She and the children were found Aug. 18 in South Carolina. She is expected in court Wednesday.

 

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Preventing Parental Kidnapping After Divorce


July 7 , 2013

Source: pasadenalawoffice.com

Parental kidnapping, while not something most parents will need to worry about after a Pasadena divorce, is still a risk all custodial parents must be aware of.

CHILDREN

The term parental kidnapping is used to mean that a parent who does not have legal custody has taken the child without the permission of the custodial parent. The parent taking the child may leave the state or even the country in order to avoid having the custodial parent make contact.

If your ex threatens to leave with your child, there are several preventative measures you can take. If you are separated, but not yet divorced, a judge can provide you with a temporary order of custody. Without a temporary order of custody, you both have equal rights to the child. Your lawyer can also help you implement protections in your custody order, such as having precise pickup times and requiring regular phone contact during visits.

Keep current photos of your child and your ex on hand to provide to police if needed. It is also a good idea to keep info such as your ex’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, and the make and model of his or her car on hand to provide law enforcement in the event of an abduction.

mother and daughter

Talk to your child’s daycare provider and/or teacher to make sure they know that your ex is not allowed to pick up your child. Schools and child care facilities assume both parents have equal custody rights unless they are told otherwise.

If your child has a passport, place it in a safe deposit box that your ex can not access. If your child does not have a passport, you should have his or her name added to the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert System. This ensures that you will be contacted if someone tries to apply for a passport in your child’s name.

 

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Egypt – Kidnapping damages reputation of Sinai tribes: Bedouin spokesperson


May 22, 2013

Source: ahramonline.org

Tribal coalition in Sinai Peninsula is working with Egyptian authorities to discover whereabouts of seven security personnel kidnapped last week.
Rafah
File photograph, the Rafah border terminal between Egypt and Gaza, and the only gateway for Gaza’s people, is closed and guarded by Egyptian border guards in Rafah, Egypt. (Photo: AP)
A spokesperson for Bedouin tribes in the Sinai Peninsula has denied knowing the location of seven Egyptian security personnel kidnapped in the region on Thursday.

Speaking on Beytna El-Kebir on state television on Saturday, Coalition of Arab Tribes spokesperson Moussa El-Lahawi said the incident “hurts the reputation of the tribes.”

El-Lawahi added that he was in constant communication with the security services and was helping them search for the kidnapped men.

On Thursday, seven Egyptian security personnel – a member of the armed forces, four port security officers, and two state security officers – were kidnapped by unknown assailants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

It is not the first time since Egypt’s revolution in 2011 that confrontations have taken place between security forces and tribesmen.

Some Sinai residents seek revenge against the security forces for their heavy-handed policies under Mubarak-era interior minister Habib El-Adly, who many accuse of failing to respect human rights and tribal traditions.

Sinai_Risk_Tribes

Mohamed El-Asati, a member of Sinai’s Aleiqat tribe, told Ahram Online on Thursday that interior ministry policies had left a painful legacy among local tribesmen, especially under the current Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

El-Asati added, “The security apparatus do not respect tribal traditions or customs,” he said. “We have always been regarded as shepherds, drug traffickers or spies for Israel. So after the revolution, you find psychological reasons for [tribesmen’s] desires for vengeance.”

“We paid a heavy price in terms of our security and dignity in the Mubarak era … We will not allow the interior ministry’s old brutal policies to return during the era of Muslim Brotherhood rule,” he asserted.

Militants allegedly belonging to Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad) were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian during attacks in June/July 2011 on an Al-Arish city police station and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria. Twenty-five individuals were charged over the attacks.

A security source, who asked not to be named, stated on Thursday that the kidnappers had accused Egyptian security forces of torturing one of the detained men.

In response to the kidnapping, Egyptian policemen closed the entrance and exit gates to the port of Rafah. The protest entered its third day on Sunday.

 

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Parental Abduction: Father helpless to bring kidnapped sons home from Egypt


April 16, 2013

Source: CNN

(CNN) — Nearly 12 years ago, Michael Shannon sent his two young sons to New York for what he thought would be a weekend visit with their mother.-It would be the last time he saw either one of them.

Nermeen Khalifa, the boys’ mother and Shannon’s ex-wife, took the children to her home country of Egypt, where U.S. citizens have almost no rights in custody battles.

“They were out of the country before we even knew they were gone,” Shannon said. “I went to the apartment to pick them up. It was like it was ransacked.”

Shannon said he knew at that time what had probably happened, but confirmation came a couple weeks later when he got a call from his eldest son.

“I received a call from Adam right after 9/11 and he said: ‘I’m not in America anymore. I’m not even in New York,’ ” Shannon recalled. “He thought New York was a separate country. He was only 4 years old at the time.

“He says, ‘When are you and Pop-Pop coming to get me?’ And I said, ‘As soon as we can.’ ”

Fast-forward to 2013, and Shannon had still not seen Adam or younger son Jason, who was 10 months old when his mother took him away. Not even in a photograph.

Adam Shannon was born in 1997. He was 4 years old when his dad last saw him. His mother, Nermeen, is at left.
Adam Shannon was born in 1997. He was 4 years old when his dad last saw him. His mother, Nermeen, is at left.

This long separation has lasted despite court rulings that the sons must be returned to their father. Almost immediately after the boys were taken, Shannon learned how powerless his U.S. court orders and his own country would be in Egypt.

“The bottom line is when we took the American orders to Egypt and asked for them to be — in the lingo of this specialty — domesticated, we are just laughed at,” said Shannon’s attorney, Stephen Cullen.

Shannon turned to the U.S. government for help and found that there was little the State Department could do. Egypt, like many Arab and Muslim countries, is difficult to deal with because it hasn’t signed on to the Hague Convention regarding international child abduction.

Shannon also discovered that his situation was not unique. According to U.S. Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues, there are at least 22 American custody disputes in Egypt.

“I’m not going to speak about a specific case, but all of these cases are sad, bad, horrible cases where one of the parents has been deprived of their children for long periods of time,” Jacobs said. “Half of the cases are over 12 years old, and the others date from 2012. And those are only the cases we know about.”

Exploiting a loophole

Michael Shannon was hesitant to let his children go to New York in 2001.

He had sole custody of Adam after the couple’s separation, and Shannon insisted that Khalifa only visit Adam with a third party present — usually Shannon’s father. And while Khalifa had custody of Jason, she could not take him outside the state of Maryland without Shannon’s consent.

But Shannon reluctantly agreed to the trip when Khalifa’s mother, Asaf, flew in from Cairo and gave Shannon her word that she would watch the boys and return them in four days.

“I said to my father, ‘Well, there is no way she can take him to Egypt,’ ” he recalled. “I have full custody. I have full rights. I have their passports locked in a safe. How could she possibly get them out of the country?”

All of these cases are sad, bad, horrible cases where one of the parents has been deprived of their children for long periods of time.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues

But there was a loophole. Back then, just one parent could simply call the State Department and report that a child’s passport had been lost to get a new one.

That’s what Nermeen Khalifa did, and the children had their Egypt Air tickets purchased in New York by a relative.

Thomas Fleckenstein, the state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, said the facts show that the boys’ grandmother was co-conspirator of an international kidnapping weeks in the making.

“She participated in the planning of the removal of the children from Maryland,” Fleckenstein said. “She participated in the story that was told to the father as to where the children would be in New York, when they would be back. The fact that she was visiting was part of the impetus for the father allowing the children to visit and spend time with the grandmother. And she was actively involved in the helping the children travel to Egypt.”

Egypt_Terror

Shannon turned to an Egyptian court for help, hiring an Egyptian attorney to help him enforce his U.S. custody rights. The case was filed in 2002 but postponed until 2004. It was then postponed another two years, and nothing has happened since.

Officials from the U.S. State Department told him there was nothing they could do.

“The State Department won’t get (photos) because they said the family won’t allow it, it’s intrusive,” Shannon said. “I’ve asked for welfare-wellness (visits), and the embassy writes letters to the family and the family simply refuses them.”

There might have also been another reason for the State Department’s lack of interest.

The boys’ grandfather, Osama Khalifa, was a successful businessman in Egypt who sat on several government boards of then-President Hosni Mubarak. In late 2001 and 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, the United States was leaning heavily on Egypt and Mubarak for support in the war on terror. It might have been a bad time to bring up the kidnapping of two boys by a family with ties to Mubarak.

Shannon felt very alone. He received a letter from his ex-wife’s sister, Eman, who wrote that the children need to be with their mother because of Islamic law. She also told him to give up –“force and bad tactics will only serve to put you farthest away from your objective.”

The other side of the story

Nermeen Khalifa now lives in Heliopolis, an upscale Cairo neighborhood where her father runs his consulting business.

For years, she has kept her silence, only once agreeing to an interview with an Arab media outlet. But she agreed to talk by phone to CNN.

She has a completely different account of her marriage to Shannon, the boys’ kidnapping and the U.S. court record on the case.

For example, Shannon says his ex-wife had a drinking problem. Maryland police records show she was charged with assaulting her husband and placed on probation, ordered to undergo treatment at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.

Michael Shannon says he\'s optimistic that his sons will turn 18 and leave Egypt on their own.
Michael Shannon says he’s optimistic that his sons will turn 18 and leave Egypt on their own.

But Khalifa says it was Shannon who was the alcoholic and that it was he who kept the family apart. She also puts blame on the American judicial system, which she says is biased and discriminatory against Arab Muslims.

“I left with my kids on my accord to protect myself and my sons,” she said. “(Shannon) is a manipulator, he’s a liar, and I had to leave. The system was against me.”

On September 11, 2001, the very morning that terrorist planes were hitting the World Trade Towers, a Maryland state court issued a warrant for Nermeen Khalifa’s arrest and granted sole custody of her sons to Shannon.

To her, the date of the hearing — and her absence from the court — proves she is a victim of discrimination.

“The ruling happened on 9/11. So what more do you want?” she said. “The judge ruled custody without even hearing me or seeing me or knowing anything about me. He gave (Shannon) immediately custody of both kids.”

Khalifa says she is “tired of this saga” and that Shannon has been making her life miserable.

“If he’s so torn up over the boys, why hasn’t he once tried to send them a birthday card, a Christmas card, anything, let alone come here so that he can see them?” she said.

Shannon says he has tried to talk to his boys every year, but the Khalifa family has refused to put them on the phone. He has also sent e-mails to them, but they go unanswered.

Six years ago, Shannon said, he was allowed to talk to Adam on the phone on his 10th birthday. But it wasn’t the boy he remembered.

“He was, ‘I hope bulldozers knock your house down and they burn your house,’ ” Shannon said. “He’s been watching too much of the Israeli/Palestinian thing.”

When asked why she hasn’t sent a photo to Shannon or even posted one online, Khalifa says no one has asked.

“I’m not keeping (the boys) from their father,” she said. “He can come here anytime and meet them.”

First look in a decade?

Last month, in an undercover van, CNN went to the apartment where Khalifa lives with her two sons. It was Sunday morning, the beginning of the school week in Egypt, and two young men walked out of the building and into a private school bus.

When he was shown this on video, Shannon became emotional. He didn’t recognize his sons.

“If these are my sons, it’s the first time I’ve seen them in 11 years,” he said.

Khalifa said in an e-mail that the boys in the video were not her sons, and then in a phone call, she threatened to sue CNN if the images were broadcast. When asked why she would consider a lawsuit if the photos were not of her sons, she didn’t answer.

Back in the United States, CNN got a phone call from a young man who said he was Adam. He asked that most of the call be off the record, but he did allow CNN to record a quote about his mother: “She’s a great caring mother, very considerate and she does whatever I ask her. If I asked her this moment to take me to the United States and give a ticket, she would proudly do it without hesitation.”

Shannon believes his ex-wife has turned his sons against him. But against all odds, he still remains optimistic that his sons will turn 18 and leave Egypt on their own, learning the truth about their father: that he never stopped loving them and that he never stopped trying to be their dad.

“It’s like they say in Egypt, ‘Inshallah,’ (If) it is God’s will,” he said. “They have to come back to the United States. They are U.S. citizens.”

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‘My daughter was abducted’


April 13, 2013

Source: The Guardian , Kate Hilpern

Two fathers talk about what happened when their daughters were abducted by their mothers and taken abroad

Gary Mulgrew

Gary Mulgrew, whose daughter was abducted by her mother: ‘What if she’s waiting for me and I haven’t come?’ Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Aamina Khan’s bedroom is much like any seven-year-old’s. Her wardrobe is filled with clothes, her school uniform is laid out on her bed and her toys sit in a pile in the corner. The only thing that is missing is Aamina. Her father, Safraz, 44, who was awarded custody of her in 2008, has not seen his daughter since September 2011, when her mother fled the country with her.

“It’s the worst thing ever. Aamina was this happy, bubbly, talkative, active, little girl and our bond was so close. Now I just go home to an empty house day after day, not knowing where she is, or if she’s even safe,” says her father, a senior research scientist, who lives in South Croydon.

The number of children abducted and taken abroad by a parent has risen by 88% in just under a decade, according to new government figures. About 270 new cases were reported in 2003-4, while last year there were more than 500 new reported cases. But perhaps most surprising of all is that 70% of these abductors are mothers.

“This has certainly not always been the case, but it’s definitely changing,” says Joanne Orton, advice line co-ordinator for the charity Reunite. “We often see cases where the mother is a foreign national who has come to England, developed a relationship that then falls apart and she wants to go home to the comfort of her family. As Britain becomes increasingly multi-cultural, we can only see this trend increasing, and it can take months, and even years, of going through the courts for the father to see their child again, and even then, they may never succeed. It’s a major problem.”

Safraz met Aamina’s mother Humma, whose family originates from Pakistan, when they had an arranged marriage in 2004. “After we married, she spent more and more time with her own family, who lived about 10 miles away. When she became pregnant, I was overjoyed. I thought it would be our fresh start.”

But when Aamina was born in July 2005, Humma, who is a doctor, took a job 80 miles away. “Her mother went with her to look after Aamina while she worked, and I was invited to bring Aamina home at weekends. It was hard, but at least I saw her, and I became a very interactive father.”

But soon afterwards, Safraz spotted an email on the family computer, showing that Humma had applied for a job in Bermuda. “I was heartbroken and called the employer to say that I’d seek advice from a solicitor if Humma took our daughter.” The company withdrew the job offer, but Humma was angry and things went downhill. “She increasingly lived at her parents, while Aamina mostly stayed with me.”

In 2008, they separated and Safraz was given residency, while Humma got contact rights. But when, in September 2011, Safraz went to collect Aamina from a two-week stay with her mother, no one answered the door.

“The car wasn’t there and I felt sick. I called on Humma’s uncle nearby and he said they’d gone on holiday. I reported her missing to the police, and they discovered she had been taken to Abu Dhabi, then to Lahore. The penny then dropped about Humma’s recent visits to Pakistan. She had been setting up a new life for her and Aamina.”

Since then, Safraz has written more than 1,000 letters and attended countless court hearings in both England and Pakistan. “I’ve got my MEP on board and I’ve been to some horrible places in Pakistan, handing out photos and writing to schools. But still nothing. The police can’t find Aamina. It’s not that I want Aamina taken away from her mother – just that England is her home. She likes rainbows, her school and swimming lessons and she’ll be confused in a country she doesn’t know and where she must surely believe she can never trust anyone again if the main person in her life suddenly disappears from it.”

lahore canal road bang bang bangggg

The emotional effect of parental abduction on children can be devastating, says Orton. “The child loses trust in the people they should be able to trust the most, and from speaking to parents following a return, it seems that trust is lost not just in the abducting parent, but both parents. That can affect them for life – their self-esteem, their confidence and their expectations of others, causing them all sorts of problems further down the line.”

Unfortunately for fathers such as Safraz, locating children is particularly difficult in countries that are not signatories to the Hague convention, says Orton. “With countries that have signed up – the majority of which are in Europe, as well as Australia, Canada, America and some others – there are procedures in place that can speed things up, although it’s not always smooth even then. But with countries that aren’t signatories, such as Pakistan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, children can very easily disappear.”

Another major problem facing fathers is that many feel at a disadvantage within the court system.

Gary Mulgrew, 51, whose 11-year-old daughter was abducted six years ago by her mother and taken to Tunisia (also not a signatory to the Hague convention), says: “The courts are an utter nightmare for fathers. They seem to be predisposed to making things more difficult for them.”

Gary was one of the three millionaire British bankers, known as the NatWest Three or the Enron Three, who were accused of fraud against their former employer NatWest. They ended up in a US jail after losing a high-profile extradition case. Until the case started, Gary lived in Brighton with Laura, his wife of 12 years, their son Calum and daughter Cara Katrina. “But then we started appearing in the newspapers a lot. The stress would put most marriages under strain and especially ones like ours, which wasn’t strong.”

Calum, then eight, chose to live with Gary and while Cara Katrina, who was three, officially lived with her mother, she stayed with Gary most of the time.

“Laura had met this Tunisian guy Abdul, whom she married three months after I was extradited, so she spent most of her time with him. But I started to get worried about her taking the children away with him. She was American and hated living in the UK, only ever having done so because of me, so I took out a prohibitive steps order, which was supposed to prevent her taking the children out of the country without my permission, and I agreed to a large divorce settlement if she agreed to stay in the UK.”

tunisia

Then Gary found himself in Houston for four years – curfewed, tagged and eventually imprisoned. “Calum was with my family in the UK. I knew he was safe. But Cara Katrina just disappeared along with Laura. I was in this appalling situation where I was in another country, absolutely helpless and the police in Britain, when I phoned them, just ignored me. The minute you say you’re extradited, they think you’re a criminal and you can hear the change of tone of their voice when you say the abductor is the mother. They think: ‘Oh well, that’s not too bad then.'”

Calum travelled regularly to Houston to see his dad, but Gary felt at a loss when he tried to explain why his mother and sister had vanished. “Laura was always a good mother and even when we divorced she had stated that I was a good father, so it was difficult to understand her rationale. Calum had a few letters from his mother via his school, but there was never a return address.”

Even when Gary’s prison sentence came to an end, he found himself on probation in the UK, unable to travel to look for Cara Katrina. Finally, in April 2010, he got the go-ahead and boarded the first available flight to Tunisia.

“I’ve been back eight or nine times since, trying to find her, but I don’t know where to start and the authorities are useless, here and there. They say that unless I’m prepared to prosecute Laura, they won’t help, but I don’t want that. Who would that help? I’m not even saying that if I found Cara Katrina, I’d bring her home. I have to think about what’s best for her and after six years, I might have to accept that the right thing is for her to stay there. But, as it is, I don’t know if she’s safe, if she’s happy, if she’s educated. I don’t even know if she’s with her mother.”

Calum is now 17. “You can imagine what this has done to him. But we make the most of what we’ve got and have a strong relationship. We don’t talk about it much, but I always buy an extra ticket at the cinema and I encourage people to keep buying Cara Katrina birthday and Christmas presents, which I keep for her, so she knows we’re not giving up on her.”

Last year, Gary got some professional counselling. “Someone said I needed to treat it as a bereavement – not of Cara Katrina, but of the five-year-old Cara Katrina. But the thing about your children is that your love for them is intense, so this doesn’t ever get any easier. In my positive moments, I dream of her being treated well and that Abdul has this big family where she laughs and sings and goes dancing. But the nightmare moments are where I let myself think none of those things might be true and that she’s just waiting for me and I haven’t come.”

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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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Kidnapping and Terror in The Middle East and North Africa: Foreign Office raises Egypt terror threat


November 3, 2012

Source: The Guardian

Egypt terror threat raised from medium to high after series of deadly militant attacks across north Sinai.

The Foreign Office has raised its terrorism warning for visitors to Egypt from medium to high, particularly urging Britons against travel to the Sinai region, after a recent spate of militant attacks.

The change comes on the same day that a report revealed that police in Egypt had foiled a plot by al-Qaida-linked militants to attack tourists in the popular Red Sea coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Mirror said the attack, involving firearms and rocket-propelled grenades, had been planned for Christmas.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said she could not comment on any link, adding that changes to travel advice were based on “a number of sources”.

While Sharm el-Sheikh is on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, it and other nearby resorts, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab, are excluded from the Foreign Office advice against travel to the region.

The Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that on 2 November we amended our travel advice for Egypt. Our advice makes clear that there is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt.”

Its website says: “Although security is tight throughout the country, especially in resort areas, there remains a high risk of attacks, which could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers such as hotels and restaurants.”

The advice warns against all travel to north Sinai, where there have been attacks on security forces near the border with Gaza and Egypt, including one which killed 16 soldiers.

The advice says that even in south Sinai security has deteriorated this year, with a number of hijacks and kidnaps away from resort areas.

Egypt has been trying to rebuild its tourism industry after last year’s widespread unrest ended the long rule of Hosni Murbarak as president.

Last month the antiquities minister, Muhammad Ibrahim, reopened the restored pyramid of Chefren and six tombs at Giza, using the occasion to stress the country’s safety for tourists.

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Child Abduction: Why British Law Means Parents May Be Powerless To Get Their Children Back


August 29, 2012

Source: The Huffington Post

When Alison Shalaby’s seven-year-old daughter was taken to Egypt by her ex-husband, she found it hard to believe that after just one week in the country, her child was now legally considered “an Egyptian”.

She told The Huffington Post UK, “Whoever I contacted in the country said she was not British. That I was asking them to extradite one of their own. She’s seven-and-a-half, she’s been in the country a week, but they said she was Egyptian.”

Shalaby’s situation is all too common. Last week, British 13-year-old Adam Jones was in the headlines, apparently held in Qatar by his late father’s family.

adam jones

Adam Jones and his mother Rebecca, who says he has been held in Qatar since 2009 

His mother Rebecca Jones said she had been trying to bring him home since 2009 and has been lobbying the Foreign Office to reunite her with her son.

Adam wrote a letter to David Cameron, saying: “I think nobody cares about me. I beg you not to forget about me. Please let me go home to my family.”

He was apparently taken in 2009 when Ms Jones signed some documents in Arabic she was presented with by her late husband’s family. A Qatar court has denied her custody twice.

And this week, Leila Sabra organised a protest in Westminster to raise awareness of the case of her five year-old daughter A’ishah, who is in Egypt after her dad allegedly failed to return her after a routine custody visit in 2009.

She alleges that she won custody through the Egyptian courts, and had her daughter returned, but that she then went missing again on a second visit to her Dad in Egypt.

In the UK it is estimated more than 140,000 children go missing every year, one every three minutes, a statistic calculated by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, which includes teenage runaways, parental abductions and kidnappings.

child abduction

Estelle Clayton, who went missing for six weeks after she was taken abroad by her father, back home with her mother, Aneta, is one of thousands who go missing each year 

Shalaby, the director of charity REUNITE, managed to get her daughter back when her former partner eventually moved back to Britain, but left her daughter in Egypt. She then started court proceedings.

She told The Huffington Post UK: “He didn’t really want to be in Egypt himself. I had to get a court order to get him to bring my daughter home, and he went to prison because he refused, he was in contempt of court.

“Often when a parent runs abroad, it’s a knee-jerk reaction, about going back ‘home’, and thinking it will be completely fine to just bring your child along, without thinking of their needs or the terrible upset it can cause to the child’s other parent.

“You think you can’t live without your child close to you, but that’s exactly what you are doing to the child’s other parent.”

The legal system in the UK means that if a child goes to a country, like Qatar, which is not signed up to the Hague Convention, or does not have a bi-lateral agreement with the UK regarding children, then it can be extremely difficult and costly to get a child back, with the British government powerless to help apart from through political lobbying.

Shalaby said: “There is a misconception that the government can do something about it. But they have no power to dictate to a foreign country, to tell them to adopt the Hague Convention.

“The change has to come from grassroots campaigners in that country.”

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