Jeremy O’Connor hasn’t seen his ex wife or his son since 2014
A heartbroken dad who hasn’t hugged his son since he was abducted three years ago says the lives of his family have been “shattered”.
Jeremy O’Connor drove his ex-wife Yolandie Botha and their then four-year-old boy Joshua to the airport for a month-long holiday to South Africa in 2014 – and hasn’t seen either of them since.
The 48-year-old, from Navan, Co Meath, contacted the authorities to report the parental child abduction and said he was told a court case would be held within a year under the Hague Convention.
However, three years on Jeremy, who has three other children, still awaits a court case to get his son back.
Although he Skypes Joshua, now seven, regularly, he hasn’t held him in three years and is worried his son is beginning to forget his relatives.
Jeremy said: “Under the Hague Convention, a parental child abduction case is expedited in under a year to avoid a child becoming settled in another country.”
But South African authorities have deferred court hearings three times, with no new date given.
Jeremy, who works in sales, added: “Yolandie and I split amicably after being together a number of years.
“I had absolutely no problem with her taking Joshua to South Africa for a month-long holiday to see her family.
“I signed the necessary consent forms and even drove them to the airport. That was the last time I saw my son.
“She contacted me before she was due to return to tell me they weren’t coming back.”
Jeremy says that under access rights, he is allowed to contact Joshua through online video chats.
He said: “I Skype him regularly but haven’t seen him in over three years. I also have other children who miss him dreadfully and he has missed out on a lot of family occasions.
“I was really close to Joshua when he was here and now I only see him on a screen. I can’t even hug him.
“My mother – his grandmother – Skyped him the other day and he didn’t know who she was.
“She was devastated and cried no end. I feel failed by the South African authorities.
“They haven’t appointed me a solicitor and every court date has been deferred.”
Jeremy now fears, due to the length of time elapsed, a court might rule Joshua is settled in South Africa and it would be an upheaval to move him.
He said: “He has Irish citizenship, he was taken wrongfully out of this country and I should have had him back at least two years ago, if the justice system worked properly.”
Jeremy has now decided to talk about his plight publicly as he feels all other routes failed.
He added: “I’m stuck in this limbo for ever and it gets worse and worse everyday.
“A lot of lives have been shattered by this and I’m desperate to try and get some kind of help.”
An Irish Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”) is a treaty between states that was set up to protect
children subjected to situations of international child abduction.
“It aims to return children to the state where they usually lived prior to their wrongful removal, so the courts can make decisions in relation to matters of custody and/or access.
“The Convention also allows left behind parents to seek to establish access rights to their children. The Convention has been agreed to by over 90 countries, including Ireland, and it has been given the full force of the law in Ireland.”
When contacted by the Irish Mirror yesterday, Yolandie said she was not allowed to talk about the case.