Canada – Police seek public’s help in parental abduction


October 28 , 2014

Source: cbc.com 

Rebekah Isaac and her 2 young children were last seen on the morning of Oct. 27

A Toronto mother and her two children are missing in what police have called a parental abduction, and investigators are asking for the public’s help in locating them.

Rebekah Isaac, 34, was last seen with her seven-year-old son Jonathan and her five-year-old daughter Joylin on Monday morning in the Neilson Road and McLevin Avenue area.

Rebekah Isaac parental abduction

Rebekah Isaac, 34, and her two young children Jonathan and Joylin were last seen on the morning of Oct. 27. Police are concerned for their safety. (Toronto Police Services handout)

Rebekah is described as five-feet to five-feet, two-inches tall, 120 pounds, with straight black hair and gold earrings. She was last seen wearing black pants, a red-and-white striped shirt and a light brown three-quarter-length hooded jacket. She was carrying a black and blue knapsack.

Jonathan is described as four-feet, four-inches tall with a slim build and short black hair. He was last seen wearing a pull-over sweater with brown and blue horizontal stripes and blue jeans.

Joylin is between four-feet and four-feet, two-inches tall and 35 to 50 pounds. She has short black hair and was wearing dangling gold earrings.

Police are worried about the family’s safety, and are asking anyone with information that might help to find the trio to contact them.

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Calgary mom alleges ex-husband abducted son, 7, to live in Lebanon


September 12 , 2014

Source: CalgaryHerald 

Layale Khalifeh and her seven-year-old son Jad have a bedtime routine when they’re apart: they look at the moon and imagine the other is doing the same.

Layale Khalifeh

It was a ritual they practised during regular phone calls last month while Jad was in Lebanon with Khalifeh’s ex-husband, Mohamad El-Husseini.

But at the end of August, the phone calls stopped — and El-Husseini hasn’t come back with their son.

Khalifeh now believes her ex-husband has abducted Jad, and has turned to authorities to compel his return.

Amid her frantic efforts to find her son, Khalifeh said she draws some solace in the belief that Jad is thinking of her when he peers up at the moon.

“I know wherever he is, he’s still doing that,” she said Thursday.

Parental abduction cases involving Lebanon can be notoriously difficult to resolve, but Khalifeh said she won’t rest until Jad is back in Calgary.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to bring my son back,” she said.

El-Husseini had taken Jad to Lebanon and returned him without incident since the couple’s separation in 2011 — but what Khalifeh has uncovered in the past 10 days has the look of alleged plan to permanently leave Canada with the boy.

Khalifeh, 33, agreed to let El-Husseini travel with Jad to Toronto, then Lebanon, at the end of July for what he said was a family wedding.

Khalifeh signed a legal consent letter, which specified El-Husseini and their son would return to Calgary on Sept. 1.

The first sign something was amiss was Aug. 26, when Khalifeh phoned El-Husseini to speak with Jad — something she did every few days — and the call cut out.

“Since then, I have continued to attempt to contact him, but have not been able to reach him or our son,” she stated in her affidavit, filed in Court of Queen’s Bench last week.

The allegations in Khalifeh’s affidavit haven’t been proven, but were enough to obtain a court order granting her sole custody of Jad and compelling his return to Canada.

Khalifeh stated in the affidavit she went to El-Husseini’s house on Sept. 1 and no one was there — what’s more, the house appeared vacant.

She also found out another property of El-Husseini’s in Calgary was sold in June.

When Khalifeh called British Airways to see if the airline had any information about her ex-husband and son’s travel plans, she learned El-Husseini cancelled their return tickets last month.

That’s when Khalifeh went to Calgary police.

At the same time, Khalifeh’s parents, who live in Lebanon, contacted El-Husseini’s family in that country and found more disturbing news: the relatives said he quit his job in Calgary.

“(El-Husseini’s aunt) further advised that he had planned to move back to Lebanon without my consent,” the affidavit said.

Calgary police have issued a Canada-wide warrant for El-Husseini, 34, on a charge of abducting a child in contravention of a custody order.

However, the family court order and the Canadian warrant don’t have any authority in Lebanon, which has never signed an international treaty governing parental abductions, known as The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Police and Khalifeh’s lawyer, Andy Hayher, acknowledge the case is challenging to pursue from Canada.

“It’s very difficult in Lebanon to convince a court that a father has abducted his own child,” said Hayer, who is working on the case with a lawyer in Lebanon.

Khalifeh and Hayher have also contacted Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai, who is Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Obhrai said consular officials in Lebanon will be pressing the case on Khalifeh’s behalf.

Local police, too, are working with counterparts across jurisdictions, such as the RCMP and INTERPOL. In the meantime, Khalifeh is trying to remain strong until she can see Jad, who was supposed to be starting Grade 2 at the Calgary French and International School.

“He’s my life. He’s my everything,” she said.

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Historic child abduction: Patricia O’Byrne sentenced to house arrest


April 5, 2013

Source: the star.com

A woman who abducted her baby daughter and kept her from the father for 18 years avoids jail because of “unique circumstances” — and the dad’s request.

patricia_O´Byrne

 

Patricia O’Byrne leaves College Park court after being sentenced to house arrest for abducting her child and keeping her away from the father for 18 years.

A woman who pleaded guilty to abducting her 20-month-old daughter and keeping her away from the girl’s father for 18 years has been sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest.

Patricia O’Byrne will serve her time, less 48 days of credit for pre-trial custody, at her home in Victoria, B.C., followed by two years’ probation.

Normally, parents abducting their children should get “real jail” to denounce their conduct and deter others, Justice Mara Greene said at College Park provincial court Tuesday.

“However, the case at bar has some unique mitigating factors,” the judge added.

PhotosView gallery

  • Patricia O'Byrne leaves the courthouse at 361 University Ave. in Toronto in January 2012.zoom
  • Patricia O'Byrne arrives at College Park court in Toronto for sentencing on April 2, 2013.zoom
  • Patricia O'Byrne leaves College Park court after sentencing for abducting her child and keeping her away from the father for 18 years.zoom

“Ms O’Byrne acted in a way that she thought was in the best interest of her child. She was frantic and fearful for her child’s safety when she was not with her. These thoughts ultimately led her to abduct her child.”

Secondly, there is a clear link between the abuse she suffered as a child and the initial commission of the offence, Greene said.

“I appreciate that this does not explain why Ms O’Byrne kept (her daughter) away from her father for 18 years. At some point, the abduction became less about Ms O’Byrne’s concern for the safety of her child and more about protecting herself from detection and prosecution.”

But the judge noted that O’Byrne has pleaded guilty and taken full responsibility.

In addition, O’Byrne’s daughter and father, Joe Chisholm, wrote statements that said jailing her will only exacerbate the harm already done.

Neither father nor daughter was in court for the sentencing.

O’Byrne, 55, refused to speak to reporters as she left.

But her lawyer, Julianna Greenspan, said the former Toronto woman is grateful for the judge’s decision.

The 21-year-old daughter, who cannot be identified, is also thankful her mother is spared jail, Greenspan said.

Daughter and father are developing a relationship, Greenspan added. “There is a hope for rebuilding and moving forward.”

Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan had sought a sentence of 15 to 18 months in jail, followed by probation. He had no comment afterward.

O’Byrne mistrusted men because of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and physical abuse she witnessed her mother experience, the judge noted.

“She was convinced, albeit wrongly, that Mr. Chisholm was putting her daughter at risk by using male babysitters,” Greene said.

Under a May 10, 1993, settlement, the daughter was to primarily live with O’Byrne, but Chisholm was granted access. But within weeks, O’Byrne and their daughter disappeared.

Over the years, Chisholm worked tirelessly to locate his girl, registering her with Child Find. Police issued a Canada-wide warrant for O’Byrne’s arrest.

Mother and daughter lived in Ireland for a time, moving to B.C. 10 years ago. There O’Byrne worked for the government and did volunteer work.

“Ms O’Byrne appears to have led a productive life and been a wonderful mother. I hesitate to refer to her existence as pro-social, however, as she spent the past 18 years living under a false identity and continued to be in breach of a court order.”

On Oct. 4, 2011, police got an anonymous tip she was living in Victoria under an assumed name. They arrested her on Dec. 1, 2011.

Chisholm’s victim impact statement showed tremendous strength, compassion and kindness, Greene said.

“What is equally obvious from his statement is the extreme pain he has endured over the past 18 years, all as a result of Ms O’Byrne’s conduct.”

Chisholm said in an interview before the sentencing that, whatever the outcome, he doesn’t harbour ill feelings for O’Byrne.

“I see it as impossible to love your child and hate her parent,” he said. “I hope everyone comes out of this in the best possible way.”

In an earlier written statement for the judge, O’Byrne said she was never motivated by a desire to hurt the father or his family.

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20 Years Later, Man Wanted in Parental Abduction is Back in St.Thomas


January 22, 2013

Source: AM980

A 51-year-old man is now in custody of St.Thomas Police, 20 years after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with an alleged case of parental abduction.

st_thomas

A warrant was issued for Benham Slim back in 1993 after Police say he fled to Beirut, Lebanon with his three little girls – aged 2, 6, and 7 – and had no plans on returning to Canada.

Four years later, in 1997, Slim was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, but was released on bail after promising to return the children, and appear before the courts the following year.

Slim did neither, and an additional warrant was issued for his arrest.

In early 2003, 10 years after they disappeared, all three girls were re-united with their mother who had since moved to Texas.

Slim, however, remained at large.

He wasn’t picked up until late October of last year by Police in Detroit where he’s remained in custody while Police in St.Thomas and the Crown Attorney’s office began the extradition process.

Just recently, the 51-year-old waived extradition to Canada and has now arrived back in St.Thomas to face parental abduction charges from 1993, as well as charges related to skipping the country back in 1998.

 

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Courts should punish parental abduction


Source: TheGlobeAndMail

The abduction of children by their mother or father is a serious crime deserving of serious consequences, and of a strong denunciation by the courts.

But the courts do not usually like to send first offenders to jail, especially when they are “otherwise of good character” and not a danger to reoffend. Many abducting parents receive conditional discharges. It is difficult to see why being a first-time offender should reduce a sentence, when the offence goes on for months or years.

That is what happened in September in R. v. Melville, an Ontario case involving a five-year-old taken by his mother from Toronto to Florida for 12 years, in violation of a court order. The judge in the abduction case did not believe there were extenuating circumstances of abuse. “In a system that is meant to focus on the best interests of the child, the child can be reduced to a weapon used by warring parents to bludgeon each other,” wrote Mr. Justice Todd Ducharme of the Ontario Superior Court, stressing the seriousness of the crime. But the Crown asked only for six months in prison, and that is what Judge Ducharme gave the mother.

It is also what happened in November in R. v. Neundorf, also in Ontario, in which a mother and her new husband took her two sons, in violation of a court order, to Singapore, without advising the boys’ father. It was seven months before she returned. In that case, the trial judge sentenced her to a year under house arrest; being a first offender worked in the mother’s favour. After she had served that term, the Court of Appeal granted her an absolute discharge, clearing her of a criminal record. Perhaps that was fair in the circumstances, but it is difficult to understand part of that court’s rationale – that the mother had experienced the hardship of not being able to see her boys for more than a year, as a result of her arrest and changes to the custody terms. Wasn’t that her fault?

In a B.C. case from 2008, R. v. Gill, a mother received a conditional discharge after fleeing an abusive situation and taking her two children home to India – for 10 years. Again, perhaps fair in the circumstances; but the message of deterrence, and of the need to respect court processes, was lost.

Each parental abduction turns on its facts, of course, and it would be foolish to urge that all abductors be tossed in jail, regardless of the circumstances. The maximum sentence is 10 years in jail, reflecting Parliament’s view of the seriousness of parental abduction. Parental abduction is a form of child abuse, and the courts should treat it that way.

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Parental abduction: Here are the warning signs


Source: Times Colonist 

Knowing what to look for can help prevent, solve kidnapped-child cases

ANDREW FELDSTEIN

The story of Joe Chisholm finding his daughter, now 20, after an 18-year search has a happy ending. Patricia O’Byrne, 54, was arrested at her home in Victoria on Dec. 1 and charged with parental abduction in contravention of a custody order for the alleged 1993 abduction of their 20-month-old child.

Yet many more parents, undergoing separation and whose children have been abducted, suffer a more uncertain ending to their trauma.

When either ex-spouse takes the law into their own hands – practising a form of “vigilante justice” – they are leaving family law and entering criminal law.

This means that when the police do catch up, the offending spouse will be arrested and charged.

Here are some warning signs that may be helpful in preventing child abduction, if you believe your child is at risk.

To start, do you consider your separation and divorce to be “high conflict?” Is your custody and access arrangement not working properly, or being ignored altogether? These two factors are warning signs. Promptly inform your lawyer.

Next, the physical ties that your ex-spouse has to his or her jurisdiction or geography are of extreme significance. Essentially, is your ex-spouse giving you exit signals?

You have to consider all of the following four conditions: Does your ex-spouse have any valuable assets in Canada and/or another country? Does your ex-spouse have a foreign passport? Does your ex-spouse have family anywhere else in Canada or across the world? What is the current employment situation of your ex-spouse?

If your ex-spouse quits their job and begins to sell off local assets, that is a good sign that they are thinking about leaving, perhaps with your child(ren).

Finding out ahead of time about assets, family and a foreign passport are important because they give you clues as to where your ex-spouse might be going. For example, if your ex-spouse has an Italian passport or a large family in Italy, your search may begin and end there.

As a preventive measure, you can file your child’s travel documents with the court pursuant to a court order, or have Passport Canada put your child’s name on the passport-control list.

Separation agreements often deal with how parents are supposed to travel with their children, but despite that, you want to try and arm yourself with the tools that will allow you to put all possible preventive measures in place before it is too late.

When an abduction does take place, what are some clues to look for and who might be in a position to help you find your child(ren)?

Schooling is an important part of the investigation into the abduction of a child. Sometimes, children who are abducted are home schooled or enrolled in private school in order to avoid detection by the public school system.

You may also want to stay in touch with your ex-spouse’s family, as they may be more concerned about the missing child’s welfare than they are about protecting the abductor.

You can also speed up the search after an abduction by providing the authorities with a detailed list of attributes pertaining to your child(ren) and the abducting spouse, as there are various agencies that are in the business of returning abducted children to their parents and families that could put this information to good use.

As a parent, I can imagine nothing more emotionally damaging than being separated from my children. In Joe Chisholm’s case, 18 years is a long time to hope and wait for redemption.

Andrew Feldstein runs a family law firm in Greater Toronto.

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Canadian Dad in Poland Trying for Return of Abducted Sons


Source: Fathers and Families

December 12th, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The more we see of international child abduction by parents, the less effective the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seems. 

The Convention is supposed to require signatory countries to return children to their non-abducting parent within 60 days of apprehension.  But the simple fact is that it seldom seems to work.

This may well be another example (Toronto Star, 12/10/11).

Stephen Watkins of Ontario lost his two sons – Alexander, 10 and Christopher, 7 – back in March of 2009.  They were abducted by their non-custodial mother, Edyta Watkins.  Stephen and Edyta were divorced and he had gained primary custody.

Stephen Watkins contends his ex-wife was suffering from post-partum depression and became abusive toward him six months after giving birth to their first child. After a court battle, a judge granted him custody of the children with his ex-wife having access to the boys on weekends.

Then, one Monday morning, his sons’ school called to say the boys hadn’t shown up for class.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant for abduction was issued for their mother, and her name appeared on the RCMP’s most wanted list. York Regional Police allege the mother and children drove into the U.S. and then flew to Germany.

After that, the trail went cold.

So, his first child is now 10 years old.  He was abducted by the mother at age eight.  Her emotional/psychological abuse of Stephen began six months after Alexander was born.

After over two years, he’s finally located them in his ex-wife’s native Poland.  He traveled to Warsaw and visited briefly with his two boys who looked much the same, but behaved very differently than before.

The short encounter was bittersweet.

“When I see my kids, they don’t call me daddy,” said Watkins. “They call me by my first name.” He accused his ex of brainwashing them.

Another article reports it this way (CTV, 12/10/11).

“They looked the same after two-and-a-half years,” Watkins told CTV News Saturday in an interview from Poland. “But they looked very stressed out and they seemed very angry…I can understand it would be very confusing for children.”

In short, the mother, who emotionally abused Watkins badly enough to lose custody and then abducted the children, seems now to be alienating them as well.

Canadian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Edyta Watkins when she first abducted the boys, but Canada and Poland have no extradition treaty, so her criminal wrongdoing will go unpunished as long as she remains in Poland.

That leaves the Hague Convention as Stephen’s only recourse to get his children back and away from their mother who appears to be willing to abuse anyone in her family in order to deprive her ex-husband of his children.  Mental health professionals long ago identified parental child abduction as child abuse, and so it seems here.  After only a few minutes with his boys, Watkins could tell their abduction, separation from him and possible alienation were causing the boys emotional/psychological harm.

But the more we see of the Hague Convention, the more frail a reed it appears on which to rely to protect children from exactly the type of abuse the Watkins boys have experienced.  The Watkins case is a perfect example of one in which the Polish court should immediately order the children returned to their father.  He’s the parent with primary custody and there’s evidence that the mother is less than fit.  Into the bargain, she obviously wants to deny the children a father.

So the case is a slam-dunk win for Stephen Watkins, right?  After all, his is exactly the type of case the Convention is supposed to address.

Not so fast.  In the first place, even if the court issues the right order this Thursday when it hears the case, it’s so far taken no action to prevent the mother from absconding with the children again.  You’d think that would be an obvious thing to do given the known facts of the case, but so far no order has been issued.

And when the court does hear the case, it can always decide that the children have gotten used to their new surroundings and it would therefore not be in their best interests to re-place them in their father’s care.  We’ve seen British courts do that more than once recently under circumstances that made clear that the words “best interests of the child” were just a proxy for pro-mother bias.

What’s to prevent that in the Watkins case?  Nothing that I can see.  Maybe that’s why the title of the CTV article says the children are “in legal limbo.”  Face it, the Convention is clear and Stephen Watkins’ rights are clear; so are his children’s.  The only “legal limbo” is whether the Polish court will enforce those rights.  Or will it fall back on the excuse that the boys have been in Poland for two of their 10 and 7 years and so, in some way, they need to remain there rather than returning to the country in which they’ve spent almost their entire lives?

You wouldn’t think a court could ignore all the obvious reasons to return the children to their father and to their home country, but we’ve seen it done too many times to hold out a lot of hope for Stephen Watkins and his boys.

We’ll see.  So far, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seems to be violated by judges almost as often as by parents.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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New Images Released Of British Girl Allegedly Abducted By Mother


It’s been two years since six-year-old Pearl Rose Gavaghan Da Massa was taken from her home in Manchester, England. Authorities say the girl and her mother are living in Toronto with different names and released new images of the youngster Wednesday.

Police allege the child’s mother, 33-year-old Helen Gavaghan, abducted Pearl from their home in Manchester. The pair has been spotted in Parkdale and there’s concern about the youngster’s health and well-being.

Helen Gavaghan and the child’s father, Hollywood Henry Da Massa, also of Manchester, share custody of Pearl. The mother is the subject of a UK arrest and extradition warrant.

Authorities claim Gavaghan unlawfully took her daughter out of England in December 2008 and travelled to Mexico. From there, the pair moved on to Texas, eventually ending up in Toronto in January 2009.

Police also claim the woman operated an unofficial home child care service in Riverdale with an unknown partner. The mother and child also lived at “an alternative community” in Parkdale for about a year, police said, under the names Dana and Belle Flaherty.

In September 2009 a health care worker offered new information in the case and raised concern about the girl, claiming she showed signs of trauma and social isolation. Pearl was in need of medical attention at the time of her alleged abduction from England.

Helen Gavaghan is described as:

-White,
-5’5”, with a very slim build
-Green/brown eyes
-Long black hair which may now be dyed or cut short
-She has a prominent angular nose and wide ears

Pearl is described as:

-3’7” or taller, with a normal build
-Green/brown eyes
-Last seen with light brown, shoulder-length hair

If you have any information on the pair’s whereabouts, call Crime Stoppers at (416) 222-TIPS or Child Find Ontario at 1-800-387-7962 quoting reference 5625-P.

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