A DESPERATE dad is facing Christmas without his daughter after she went missing on the other side of the world.
Andrew Laws, from Fenham, Newcastle, hasn’t seen his one-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, for seven months following a family holiday in the Philippines.
And now the 41-year-old’s mission to find her has hit a major stumbling block after he was robbed of £2,500 he had hoped he could use to bring her home.
Andrew claims his estranged Filipino partner is refusing to return to England with their child after they travelled to the South East Asian country in May to meet Ashleigh’s grandparents.
The former soldier, who is receiving consular assistance from the Foreign Office and backing from his MP, Chi Onwurah, was trying to raise the funds to travel to the Philippines in the hope of resolving the matter with Filipino officials and local police.
But now the despairing dad has been forced to contact police in the North East after an alleged conman swindled him out of £2,500.
Andrew paid the cash to a man posing as a reputable private investigator, who advertised on the internet and offered to help his case – but never heard from the man again.
The setback has dashed his hopes of being reunited with Ashleigh in time for the festive season, despite UK courts claiming he has every right to custody of the toddler.
He said: “I met this guy online and he sent me emails and it all seemed to check out. Other people vouched for him and I made some checks and he seemed legit.
“I paid him a lot of money, £2,500, through my bank account, but I’ve since heard that he’s totally dodgy, and I’m not the only one. There’s quite a lot of other people he’s defrauded.
“It’s a major setback. It’s just a never-ending saga, and it’s hard to stay positive.
“Christmas day is just going to be terrible. I’m really not looking forward to it at all. But I’m just going to have to pick myself up again. I’m looking forward to a new start next year. I’m going to try to find a private investigator I can really trust.”
Andrew, who served in Iraq before retraining as a computer programmer, has been told by authorities in Britain that traveling to the Philippines is his only hope of getting his daughter back.
Complex international laws mean there is little the Government can do from here, other than request that the child be returned. But the Filipino Government appears to be doing little to help.
Determined Andrew said: “I’ve never failed at anything I’ve put my mind to and I’m not going to fail in bringing my daughter home.”
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, has written to the Foreign Office asking them to demand Ashleigh is returned to the UK.
She said: “Christmas is for families, especially children, so my heart goes out to Mr Laws, separated from his daughter. I’ve written to the Foreign Office and he has their support.”
The Foreign Office said it is not their policy to comment on individual cases where children are involved.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “We can confirm we received a call reporting a potential fraud and inquiries are being made.”
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