Lauren Etchells, now the the subject of a Canada-wide warrant, holds daughter Kaydance, who turned three on Tuesday. It is believed that Etchells and her daughter are somewhere in Europe.
Saanich police detectives are following new leads in an international child abduction case that has left one parent on the run and the other desperate to find her daughter.
Tasha Brown last saw daughter Kaydance on May 7, 2016, the day before her estranged partner, Lauren Etchells, and Kaydance boarded a plane from Vancouver to London Gatwick Airport. They were with Etchells’ new partner, Marco van der Merwe, and the couple’s newborn child.
“It’s absolute torture,” Brown said Tuesday, Kaydance’s third birthday.Etchells is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for 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.
Saanich police do not believe Kaydance is at risk of physical harm.Officers believe van der Merwe is in the Netherlands. It’s unclear whether Etchells and the two children are also in that country.
“Detectives are attempting to locate him in hopes that he can provide valuable information about the whereabouts of Kaydance and Lauren,” said Acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie of Saanich police.
Brown, who works as a teacher on call, said even this small bit of new information gives her hope Kaydance will be found. She said she tries to keep busy to protect her mental health. But some days, the sight of a stroller or a mother and daughter will trigger a deep depression.
Last year, Etchells told the Times Colonist in a letter that she would not turn herself in because she feared for her child’s safety. “I didn’t kidnap my child,” she wrote.
Investigators contacted van der Merwe, who was then believed to be in Qatar. Police said at the time that he was “less than co-operative” about Etchells’ whereabouts.
Brown said she suspected van der Merwe was going to try to sponsor Etchells and the children to live in Qatar through his work permit, so she contacted his employer and told them about the abduction allegations.
The alleged abduction is the culmination of a bitter custody battle between the two women.
Etchells and Brown married in August 2012, and Etchells gave birth to Kaydance after the couple decided to conceive using a sperm donor. After they separated in July 2015, Etchells was given full custody of Kaydance, but Brown was fighting for equal custody rights.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of van der Merwe, Etchells or Kaydance is asked to call Saanich police at 1-888-980-1919, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection at 1-866-543-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).