September 27, 2016
Saanich police, working with Interpol, have determined that Etchells, a dual Canadian and U.K. citizen, and Kaydance left England for France on May 22, but they have not been spotted since. It’s unclear where in Europe they might be as U.K. citizens can travel through Europe’s Schengen area without passport checks.
At a news conference at Saanich police headquarters, Brown made an emotional plea for Etchells to return to Canada with their daughter.
“Kaydance, I love you and I miss you and your love. Everyday I wonder where you are and I wonder if you are all right. I wonder if you’re walking more, if you’re talking more, if you’re laughing or crying. How much have you grown and what have you learned? If I had one birthday wish for you, Kaydance, it would be that you would be found and brought back to Canada,” Brown said. “Instead, her life is being hidden away, somewhere in the world.”
Brown reported the suspected abduction on May 14 to Saanich police, the day after Etchells failed to bring Kaydance for her visitation. Brown went to Etchells’ parents house in Saanich and they said they couldn’t tell her where Kaydance was.
“I knew right then and there, by the look in her dad’s eyes and the shakiness in his voice, I knew she was gone,” Brown said.
Through the police investigation, Brown discovered that on May 8, Etchells, Kaydance, Etchells’ new partner, Marco van der Merwe, and their newborn child, Marcus, boarded WestJet Flight 22 from Vancouver to London Gatwick Airport.
“You can never begin to know the suffering of not knowing where your child is,” Brown said.
The same-sex couple married in August 2012 and, one year later, decided to have a child through the sperm donor process.
Kaydance was born Sept. 26, 2014, in Edmonton, where the couple were living at the time. An Alberta birth certificate originally listed both women as parents, but Brown said her name has been removed.
The couple separated in July 2015 and have been locked in a custody battle since.
Etchells, who gave birth to Kaydance, had full custody and Brown had visitation rights, but was fighting for joint custody.
Brown has had fears Etchells would leave the country with Kaydance since last year when she discovered Etchells bought one-way plane tickets for Qatar, where the couple previously lived. Brown hired a lawyer and, in August 2015, a provincial court order was issued stating that Etchells needed to surrender Kaydance’s U.K. passport and not apply for a Canadian passport or leave Vancouver Island.
Despite the court order, Etchells obtained a Canadian passport for Kaydance.
On May 19, Saanich police requested a warrant for Etchells’ arrest and on June 8, a Canada-wide warrant was issued. Etchells faces one count of abduction by a parent, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and two counts of disobeying a court order.
Brown addressed Etchells directly during the news conference, saying: “Lauren, this is not how I envisioned our separation. And although Kaydance is only two, this will without a doubt be something that will impact her future. As good parents I am begging you to work with me to ensure Kaydance’s best interest is our No. 1 priority and that she is part of both her parents’ lives.”
Saanich police do not believe Kaydance is at risk of physical harm.
Saanich police spokesman acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie said Etchells has taken away Kaydance’s freedom. “Kaydance will be unable to grow up knowing her mom and her family.”
Leslie was questioned as to why an Amber alert was not issued about a missing child and why it took more than four months to report the abduction publicly. Leslie said police have investigative avenues to follow before they make information public. He said police were also cautious not to broadcast the details in case Etchells was in Qatar, where same-sex marriage is illegal.
Brown said van der Merwe, the man who accompanied Etchells on the flight to London, was a friend of Etchells’ who had agreed to be a sperm donor for their second child. He is a South African national living in Qatar. “To be betrayed in such a way just added to my misery,” Brown said.
Investigators have contacted van der Merwe, who did not carry on to continental Europe with Etchells and the two children. He is believed to be back in Qatar and Leslie said when contacted he was “less than co-operative.”
Saanich police are asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Etchells or Kaydance to call 1-888-980-1919 or anonymously through CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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