Durban - A woman who allegedly kidnapped her young daughter from Northern Ireland, sparking an international plea from her ex-husband who has legal custody of the girl, has been traced to Durban.
The woman and her new husband have now been asked to voluntarily hand over the 7-year-old child to Irish authorities, or have her forcibly removed.
Their identities are being withheld to protect the child.
The couple, however, plan to fight the matter when it is heard by a Durban High Court judge later this month – even though the legal advice they have received so far has been that their chances of victory are slim.
They said they had “no other option” but to flee Northern Ireland last year with the child after an Irish judge had “wrongly” given her ex-husband custody of the girl.
The woman and her ex-husband – an Algerian – married in 2007 and had three children together, aged 15, 14 and 7. When they divorced in 2010, the two older children chose to stay with their father.
In December 2012 a court in Northern Ireland ruled that because the elder children had not reconciled with their mother, the best option was that the younger child should live with her father.
“That was not justice,” the mother said from her home in uMhlanga on Tuesday.
“I felt I was not getting full justice in Ireland and was basically told to hand the child to the father. I was never proven to be a bad mother. I have never taken drugs or alcohol.
“The court’s decision left me devastated and distraught because I really love my daughter and I don’t want her to be in an abusive home,” she said. “I am worried about her well-being, that’s why we came here.”
The mother appealed the court’s decision, but fled to South Africa with her new husband, a South African citizen, before it was heard.
The father then launched an application in terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction to have his child returned to him. South African authorities, acting on the application, subpoenaed the couple last week.
The woman’s husband, whom she married in 2012, said they had decided to flee Northern Ireland on New Year’s Day last year because they believed her ex-husband would turn the girl against her and she would never see her daughter again.
“It is not about us, the adults, but about a little girl who needs her mother. That is why we did this,” he said.
Speaking to the Daily News from Ireland on Tuesday, the child’s father said he was pleased that his efforts, including hiring a private detective to trace his ex-wife, appealing for information through South African newspapers, as well as a YouTube video appeal, had paid off.
He denied that he would not allow his daughter to see her mother and promised to grant her access to their children if they wanted to see her.
“This experience has caused a lot of turmoil in our lives. It was my ex-wife who stopped me from seeing my daughter and who moved two hours away from me when she was in Ireland,” he said.
“At the end of December 2012 she told my daughter’s school that she was moving to Manchester, but lied and instead ran away to South Africa with her husband.
“I want her to come back to Ireland because our other daughter, who is 14 now, misses and needs her mother and her baby sister. I am willing to forgive her and I have told her that.”
His ex-wife, however, is sceptical. She said she would put her case before the South African courts.
“I am reluctant to send her back, but if I have no rights here and they say I don’t have any rights because I am not a South African citizen then, I will have to make a voluntary return and ask for conditions on that court order,” she said.
“I want protection for my daughter and myself and he must pay for her airfare. I am going back to nothing there. I will have no accommodation.
“It is going to rip this child apart if we have to leave.”