Parental Kidnapping

Before we can continue with this article it will be beneficial to know the definition of parental kidnapping.

What is Parental Kidnapping:

parental kidnapping infographic

It is when one of the parents abduct the child or children and are usually accompanied with lies told to the children. Some of these lies can be that the other parent no longer loves them or even that the other parent has died.

The children in such cases often live lives of extreme instability from moving around frequently and even changing their names often. The abductor prohibits all contact with the other parent.

Parental kidnapping laws vary from state to state and country to country. A lot of times it does not have to involve force or a weapon to support a criminal charge.

8 Child Abduction facts I found interesting

It is sad to know that we have all these facts about child abduction. It just shows how frequently it happens. Divorce is a terrible thing for adults to go through and a most of the times the children suffer the most. The kids always think it is their fault, and parents use the children as pawns to get back at one another. It’s sometimes the reason why children become difficult and in some cases killers. The best thing to do is to be civil towards each other let your kids know that both parents will support them no matter what. Reassure your children that it is not their fault.

1.  It is believed in the United States alone a child becomes missing or abducted every 40 seconds.

2.  In 2001, the FBI’s National Crime Information Centre estimated that 2,000, children per day were reported missing. Most of these cases are solved within hours of the child being reported missing.

3. There are three distinct types of kidnapping:

49% Kidnapping by a relative of the victim, mostly known as family kidnapping. 27% Kidnapping by an acquaintance.
24% Kidnapping by a stranger to the victim, mostly known as stranger kidnapping.

4.  One child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the police is not found alive. Twenty percent of the children reported to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.

Abductions by strangers

5.  80% of the time, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child’s home.

6.  Abductors take children from the street or lure them into their vehicles.

7.  74% of the victims of nonfamily child abductions are girls.

8.  74% murdered victims on kidnapping cases are killed in the first three hours.


I will now share some of the stories that gripped the nation and parents alike. The worst thing about parental abduction is what the child has to go through emotionally. I am blessed with the most wonderful parents, and I am very thankful of how they brought me up. It is such a shame that many children do not experience the joy of a happy home.

The incredible kidnapping story of May Monaghan

Louise Monaghan is the mother of May Monaghan. Louise in her late 20’s left Ireland for Cyprus and became a successful travel sales consultant. She had a hair salon, good cars and a very decent income with supportive friends. She then met her now ex-husband Mostafa. He was a good looking guy, but she feels ashamed to say that she fell in love with him. Mostafa was controlling from the beginning. Louise told herself that she was lucky to have a man that cares so passionately about her. They come from different cultures, she was Irish Catholic, and he was Syrian Sunni Muslim. Nothing could stand in the way of their love and when they got married, she became his property.

Louise was married to Mostafa for seven years. Mostafa would regularly beat her and one time he punched her unconscious, he thought he killed her. By now the blind love has disappeared, and she had enough courage to press charges and begged the judge for leniency.

Louise now had a daughter too. She was afraid for May’s life as Mostafa told her that he would kill her and May if he had to go to prison. Mostafa received a suspended sentence, and his visitation rights of May continued.  Poor May was in the middle of the dispute and hated her time with Mostafa. May had panic attacks and developed trichotillomania. It is a compulsion to pull out your hair.

The relationship between Louise and Mostafa also declined after the divorce. He would stalk her, hiding behind the bushes beneath her apartment, following her in his car and terrifying her.

Louise never told May that her father was a bad person, or that she could not see him. She did tell May this one thing that if her father ever takes her to the airport or ferry that she should scream and go to the nearest adult, she could see so that they could call Louise.

One day Louise called Mostafa, he had May that day he’s phone went to an international dial tone. That was the moment Louise knew that Mostafa had kidnapped May which was six years at the time and fled the country. Louise immediately phones the police in Cyprus, who did not seem interested in the case and told her that this was just another domestic case that would sort itself out. The government in Ireland could not issue May an emergency passport without her father’s signature. Louise was in shock and outraged but, was told rules were rules.

After a couple more calls, Mostafa decided to answer the phone and calmly told Louise that he and May are just about to go over the border to Syria where Mustafa is originally from. Louise asked Mostafa if May was with him he told her yes and that he and May are going to live in Syria. She requested to speak to May; May was so distraught it is hard to make out what she said. She told Louise that she was in a big shopping mall and there were planes. I cannot even imagine what Louise felt at that moment, her only child kidnapped, and all this time she feared this moment.

After May was abducted, Louise’s sister Mandy flew to Cyprus. To be with her and to work out a rescue plan. They traveled to Southern Turkey and drove to Hatay, bordering Syria. On 12th September 2011, Louise walked into Syria five days after the abduction.

Somehow Louise found Mustafa and convinced him that she wants to make amends and be with him. She did everything she could to win his trust.

When Louise found May, she learned that May was beaten onto the plane. She had bruising on many parts of her body where Mostafa grabbed her.

May and Louise had already been in Syria for five weeks. Mostafa would leave Louise in a locked dark room while he took May out to visit his parents. Mostafa beat and starved Louise for days.

Louise and May escaped across the mountains into Lebanon through bomb attacks and sniper fire. A loving parent would do anything for his/her child even die for them if they need to. When they came back to Ireland, Many said that May looked worse than Louise. May does not like to talk about the ordeal and rarely mentions anything.

Despite everything that happened May still loves her father, now that is real love. A month after Louise and May returned home, Mostafa was apprehended trying to escape Syria through the Turkish border. He was in jail for two weeks and was due to be extradited to Cyprus on charges of abduction. At that stage, Syria was in mid-collapse, and he released. Currently, there is an international warrant out for his arrest.

Louise is undergoing intense psychotherapy. In her therapy, she talks about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. She became introverted, and she is trying to put things into context, as she could not believe that she ended up with a man like Mostafa.

Two years after the kidnapping and Louise and May are still living in Cyprus. May is at school, and it seems that life is returning to normal. May is a lovely eight-year-old with long dark hair; she is still uncertain of a lot of things in life and is depending heavily on the guidance of Louise. Louise’s book “Stolen: Escaped from Syria “is going to be made into a film. To Louise and May, this will never be a movie but, they hoped that people would be inspired of what they went through and still carry on living.

The father that lost his daughter Emily Winnington through parental kidnapping.

Neil, the father of Emily, has traveled all over the word as a TV producer. Strangely enough, he met his wife in Birkenhead a few miles from his parents’ home. His wife, originally from Russia returns to Russia to give birth to Emily. Neil said that is when things started to go wrong. He thinks that she had postnatal depression and her mother sowed seeds of doubt. His marriage fell apart after he discovered that she had an affair.

In July 2008 his wife and Emily went on holiday and assured him that they would return to Wrexham. He did not believe her. She threatened before that she would take Emily away, and if he did not give her half of his earnings, she would not allow visitations. She said that she would go to the Russian Courts to remove his name from the birth certificate and Emily would never know that she had a British father.

After the abduction of Emily, Neil stopped working, he lost his home, car and has 20,000 pounds of debt. He had a complete nervous breakdown; he now has learned to control it. His former wife is unavailable for comment because she has disappeared. Neil assumes that both of them are still in Russia. British Government did not help much when the cutbacks started at the Foreign Office all attempts to contact Emily stopped. They did send someone for a consular visit; his former wife refused to let them take a photograph of Emily for him.

25th September 2013, was years since Neil last saw Emily, and he has no idea what she looks like today or where she is living. He said that she would probably not recognize him. He hopes that she is happy where she is. He’s only hope is to leave a trail for her online, in the form of films, songs, blogs, poems and photos in the hope that one day she will see it. This story breaks my heart. A father that has lost all he had, he will do everything in his power to recover her and he will never stop searching or give up hope.

Let’s hope that with everyone that is constantly on the internet and using technology that Emily will see her father’s posts.

Interesting enough Russia has recently agreed that kidnapped children should be sent back to their countries of origin, in accordance with the 1996 Hague Convention.

Emily’s abduction case could not be considered as they only took cases from the previous year. Devastated Neil had nowhere else to turn to now.

Neil is feeling much better and just started a new job. He is convinced that Emily will contact him one day. About relationships with other women, Neil forcefully said that he would stay single for the rest of his life. He says that it would not be fair towards Emily. If he starts a new family, it means that he has given up. One thing I know is that Emily would not want her father’s life to stop because of her abduction. She would wish her dad a happy life where he once again found love. I think he cannot function without Emily in his life and until he found her, he will live an empty life.


Savannah Harris Todd never knew she was abducted by her mother.

Savannah’s mother Dorothy Lee Barnett lost the custody battle with her former husband, Benjamin Harris Todd. A psychological test determined that Dorothy was bipolar. Dorothy was under supervised visits to Benjamin’s mother’s house in South Carolina. Dorothy took Savannah to a birthday party and never returned.

In 1994, Dorothy took Savannah and fled to South Africa where she lived under an alias. She remarried and gave birth to her second child, relocating to New Zealand and then Australia to live with her new family. Savannah now commonly known as Samantha Geldenhuys never knew that she was missing. Savannah’s kidnapping case is one of the longest running cases in America. She was only 11 months old when Dorothy took her.

After 19 years in 2013, Savannah’s real identity became apparent. She was studying nursing at Townsville University with the name Samantha. Dorothy’s second husband’s friend became suspicious about Savannah, and he came across a missing person’s report and notified Benjamin.

The FBI arrested Dorothy and extradited her to the US. Savannah stands by her mother’s side, and this is what she had to say about her mother. “She became the most incredible woman when she realized that she saved me, whatever the case, she succeeded in what she wanted to do, and it wasn’t easy along the way.”

Savannah has no prior knowledge of her previous life. Another parent should deny no child access to the other parent; there is a reason children need a father and a mother. Different influences from a mother and father give their children balance, and without both parents, something is missing in the child’s life.

There was no reason for Dorothy to take Savannah, she had visitation rights, and it seems that the terms were met. Dorothy was angry that she lost the custody battle and thought that if she could not have her child, then Benjamin does not deserve Savannah. Savannah’s life is shaped now, and it seems that Dorothy did a good job as a mother. Benjamin, on the other hand, did not get to play with his little girl nor see her grew up in the beautiful young and educated woman that she today.

Iddin & Shahirah met their mother by tracking her down on the internet

Jacqueline Pascarl was married to Prince Raja Bahrin of Malaysia. She gave birth to their two children in a Southeast Asian country in the 1980’s. In later years she took her children back to her native Australia after her husband took a second wife under Islamic law. During a custody visit in 1992, her son and daughter were smuggled out of Australia by Raja.

Iddin was seven, and Shahirah was nine when they were taken by car from the Melbourne Hotel. They were taken on a boat to Indonesia and then Malaysia. After the abduction, Iddin and Shahirah grew up in Malaysia without any contact with Jacqueline. As a teenager, Shahirah tracked her mother down via the internet. Shahirah and Jacqueline communicated secretly for three years. In April of 2006, Shahirah flew to Melbourne, and four months later they were joined by Iddin.

It was the first time in fourteen years that Jacqueline saw her children again, Shahirah now 21 years. Shahirah was eager to catch up and said “We are trying to make up for all the things we didn’t’ get to do. And yeah it’s been great”. At the time Shahirah was unsure of where she wanted to start a family, and three years later she married in Melbourne. So it seems that this is a happy ending and the children are in contact with both of their parents.

The Vincenti sisters a not so happy family kept apart by parental kidnapping

Laura Garett married Tomaso Vincenti in Italy after meeting each other on a student exchange program. They were a happy family, and raised their little girls, Emily and Claire, together until they divorced in 1997. An Italian court granted both parents shared custody in 2010. Laura took Emily and Claire on a month long holiday in Queensland and never returned.

After living in Australia for two years Emily and Claire was sent back to live with their father. The custody battle was under The Hague Convention. Ever since they returned to Italy, they said that they love living there and is currently living there. In an interview, Emily and Claire said that both their parents acted selfishly. They say that “ I think they were thinking more about themselves than us because we’re were put in the middle of this whole situation. We went through all of this, I mean they did as well, but it was most hard for us”.

They are happily settled now in their home in Florence, and they still maintain contact with their mother. They like to visit their mom and make regular trips between both parents. Even though their parents put them through a lot, they were willing to forgive them. The saying blood is thicker than water is very true, no matter what your parents did to you they are still your parents. And while it is true that some parents only have children so that they are not lonely, others love their children and only want the best for them.

Andrew Thompson found by his cycling Dad.

Only three years old, Andrew was flown out of Australia by his mother Melinda Stratton while Melinda and Ken were in the midst of the custody battle. Ken was so distraught he quit his job as an NSW firefighter chief. Ken embarked on a cycling trip around Europe in 2010, in search of his missing son.

It shows what lengths parents will go to to protect their children. As Ken had no idea where his estranged wife and son were living, he traveled across nine countries. He had a 6, 500 kilometers journey; he cycled six to eight hours a day for four months. Ken wore a jersey with his son’s face and one of his son’s favorite toys strapped to the front of his bike. He made sure he attracts the media’s attention in the hoped that someone would come forward with some information.

Ken was directed to Netherland after an anonymous tip, where Andrew was living and had no idea of the situation that was unfolding. With the help of the Australian Embassy and the local police, Ken and Andrew were reunited. Andrew was six years old when Ken found him. Andrew must have felt that his father was a hero, riding around, so many countries to be with him again.

January 11th, Ken, and Andrew returned to Australia. What a sense of relief Ken must have had. Ken asked the national and international media to respect Andrew’s privacy and just let him be a normal young boy.


Rebekah, Hayden, and Chandler an out of country parental battle

Eileen left home she shared with her husband John Clark in New Mexico in February 1995, with their three children. The marriage of John and Eileen was dissolved in 1998, and both parents retain legal custody. Eileen, a former model, first went to live in California with friends before moving to the Isle of Wight in 1998 with her children. Eileen has married a Canadian national and has lived in Oxfordshire for more than eight years.

John demanded that Eileen should pay the price for taking his children out of the country. The U.S prosecutes said that they only discovered Eileen was living in Britain in 2008. In July of 2010, Eileen was arrested and faces three years in prison if she is convicted. The magistrate approved the extradition but, Eileen’s lawyer, Kaim Todner took the case to appeal. Kaim told the High Court that is would be oppressive to extradite Eileen. Because of her medical problems. Eileen has a worsening psychiatric problem and a fear of flying.

Eileen said that if they send her to America to stand trial, it would have a devastating impact on her children. The appeal was rejected as Eileen lived openly in the UK since 1998. She did keep her name but, never told anyone in the US where she lived. The judge said, “We accept there will be hardship for the appealing if she is returned to the US to stand trial, but we do not believe that the hardship can properly be characterized as oppressive.”

Despite all these years and the ages of Eileen’s and John’s children, they are still labeled missing and later endangered adults by the U.S. authorities. Eileen’s children are all University students in London and are bitterly opposed to their mother being sent to for trail in America.

Chandler is twenty-four, Hayden is twenty-two, and Rebekah is nineteen. Rebekah said that “There are murderers all over the world and my mum is wanted by the FBI. It is the biggest joke I’ve heard in my life”. Of course, Eileen’s children would say that; they do not feel like were abducted and had an average life. All they had was a beautiful life without a biological father. No matter how good of a mother Eileen was, she still needs to be accountable for what she did.

And like so many other cases Eileen had supporters and just like her children opposed to how she is treated. Her supporters said that this is an example of how unfair the Extradition Act is and it is being misused. They say that Eileen was originally wanted for a lower level crime of custodial interference which is not a crime. Later the prosecutors issued a warrant for the more serious charge of international parental kidnapping.


Billy Hansen kidnapped and sailed away with Daddy

Johanna Hanson agreed that her son can spend July and August of 2014, with her estranged husband Jeff Hanson on his 30-foot sailboat named Draco.

When Billy and Jeff arrived in Washington, Johanna started to get text messages from Jeff. The messages suggest that Billy would not be coming back in the fall. That is a violation of their court-approved custody agreement. Billy was nine years old.

Johanna called the Hazelton Pennsylvania Police Department, the police, in turn, called the Port of Seattle Police Department. A welfare check on Billy in August showed that Billy was all right and he and his father were on the boat in Seattle.  A week after that Billy’s grandfather purchased a plane ticket for Billy to return to the East Coast. It turns out that the plane ticket was never used and the boat Draco was nowhere to be found.

When Johanna learned that Billy was missing, she phones the local police and set in motion an international kidnapping investigation. The investigation took the FBI agents halfway around the world to a tiny island in the South Pacific. Not only did the FBI investigate but, it was one of the biggest collaborations of local, federal and international law enforcements coming together to bring Billy safely home. The investigation was led by the FBI’s Seattle division. Agent Carolyn Woodbury said that when Billy was not on the flight back home in September 2014, Johanna was very concerned. So she should be she had no idea where her boy is and was threatened with taking her son away.

The task force members who went to the marina and everywhere else to conduct interviews uncovered, Jeff had given some of his belongings away. He previously sailed around the world with his boat Draco as well. So not only is he an experienced seaman, he could be anywhere on the ocean. By now Jeff had a six-day head start, and more troubling information the investigators uncovered was that Billy could not swim. A federal warrant was issued on Jeff Hansen on September 12, 2004. The task force members had to work quickly to get the word out on the kidnapping.

The National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, The Coast Guard, US Navy and the FBI offices up and down the West Coast were all alerted of Billy’s abduction. Hourly announcements about the kidnapping were made on maritime radio channels. The FBI’s investigative publicity team went above and beyond duty to distribute posters online and on social networks of Billy, Jeff, and Draco. It is heartwarming to see that the authorities take these matters seriously and treat this case with the utmost importance. It has been said that early on governments failed on searching for parental abduction children. In the past, a lot of police departments write these cases off as just another family dispute.

The investigation led the FBI to believe that Jeff would likely sail to Mexico, South America or The South Pacific. The FBI’s legal attaché offices known as the Legats were contacted. Australia Legat Canberra disseminated fliers. Information was sent to the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre. It is an organization of police, customs and immigrations, and other agencies.

The goal of the agencies is to collect information and utilize it to prohibit transnational criminal activity in the South Pacific.

Who knew there were so many agencies? In the meantime, the FBI made use of the media, and the news of Billy’s kidnapping was broadcast everywhere.

Legat Canberra reported on the 29 October 2014 that Billy and his father were seen on a remote Island. Nation of Niue, it is located 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand. There are about 1,200 residents on the island; a woman recognized Billy and his father from the news reports.

She contacted the local chief of police, and they contacted the authorities. Jeff was detained on immigration charges. FBI agents from Seattle had a long journey ahead of them to Niue, as this is a remote and far away island. There are only two flights on and off the island per week.

The FBI said that it shows the collaboration between the public and law enforcement. Agent Carolyn Woodbury gave special thanks to the international assistance provided by Niue Police Department, the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service. After Billy’s harrowing odyssey he was reunited with Johanna. This was not an adventure for Billy; he is very traumatized. The investigators learned that before Draco left Seattle, the dinghy that carried the food and water for the trip was lost at sea. When Billy and Jeff reached the island, Niue Billy. The voyage and shortage of food had taken such a toll on Jeff that he had lost thirty pounds over the sixty-day trip.

Jeff appeared in federal court on 11th November 2014, in Seattle to face international kidnapping charges. In March 2015, Jeff pleaded guilty and he was sentenced seven months in prison. If you asked me the sentence is not long enough. If I think about the emotional scars, to know that your father kidnapped you and the rest of your life you have to live with that history.

The boat Draco was Jeff’s residence and remains in a dry dock in Niue. It is about 5,500 miles from Seattle and is accumulating dock fees. So for Jeff to regain his house he has to travel all the way back to Niue and pay all the dock fees before they released Draco. There is, after all, justice in this world.


Some statistics and problems faced with parental kidnapping

To attain the correct statistics of parental abduction cases is almost impossible. In 2012 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office statistics revealed that there had been an 88% increase in parental abduction cases.

In the eyes of the public, it is wrongly believed that most of the abductors men. When in fact it was found that 70 percent of the times it was the mothers that were the perpetrators in the UK. This usually occurs when the relationship between the parents turned sour.Growing media and political antipathy are driving people apart, especially foreigners.

Australia is one of the countries with the highest per capita rates in the world of parental kidnapping and fleeing overseas. In 2016 there were 114 ongoing applications of child abductions to the Hague Convention signatories. Legal resolution is difficult in places such as India, China, and Lebanon.

Some experts believe that there is a perception among the public and law enforcement that children abducted by parents are not in danger. Even though the cases of harm befalling the children is small only four percent any child harmed is one too many. It took a while but it is now a felony, and the public should know that it is no different than a mugging or murder. Tracy Morse, the co-founder of American Abductions Resource & Support Organization, said the following. “These children are separated from everything they know and love; they are forced to live a life of a fugitive, constantly on the run, separated from their identity, and their schooling interrupted and often told their left behind parents don’t care about them”.

A lack of resources is an obstacle for parents in abduction cases. A lot of parents do not have the funds for private investigators and communication firms to print fliers for their missing children. A lot of times when the money dries up the parents are forced to accept the cruel reality of not seeing their children again. Today the Internet and other technology have made a little bit easier to track loved ones, but you’re taking a chance and can only hope for the best.

You have to keep on harassing the police on updates on your case; otherwise, it will be put at the bottom of the pile. Tracking devices have been developing that enables parents to track the whereabouts of their children. The monitoring device has integrated digital technology from the Department of Defence Global Positioning System satellite to pinpoint any location. The American Abduction Resource and Support Organization want’s the government to create a system similar to the Amber alert for parental abductions. Some of the early signs of parental abductions start at the arrangement of child visitations rights in court.

According to the records of the Justice Department, California is the only state that requires district attorneys. They have to take whatever civil remedies and criminal prosecutorial measures necessary to locate and recover children abducted by their parents. While in power former President Bush held a conference on missing, exploited and runaway children


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