UK – Bradford mother who planned Syria child abduction jailed


January 8, 2016

Source: BBC News

A mother who tried to abduct her two children to live in Syria under control of the so-called Islamic State has been jailed for five years and four months.

International Family Abduction

The 34-year-old woman from Bradford, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was stopped by the Turkish authorities last October.

She had flown to Istanbul with the intention of travelling to Raqqa.

At a previous hearing at Leeds Crown Court, she pleaded guilty to two counts of abducting children under 16.

Sentencing her at the same court, Judge Rodney Jameson QC said she was “determined to take them to Raqqa in Syria”.

The court heard she wanted to live under strict Sharia law and believed such a regime could only be found where IS imposed control.

She had returned to the UK after her husband and parents contacted police.

‘Terrible betrayal’

The judge said: “Raqqa is, and was in October 2015, the epicentre of a war zone. Further, it was, and presently remains, under the control of IS.

“It is said on your behalf that you do not support much of what IS do. It is not easy to reconcile this submission with the assertion that you believe that Sharia law is only enforced properly by IS.

IS Abducted Syria

“In any event, the nature of the regime imposed by IS in Syria is clear.

“It is beyond dispute that IS enforce their will by the use of extreme force. Such force routinely includes mutilation, rape and murder. You are an intelligent and well-educated woman, you knew this.

“The fate of your children would have been either to have subscribed, fully and actively, as we have all seen in the appalling use of a young child in an IS propaganda video in recent days, to such behaviour, or to have suffered it themselves.”

“This was a terrible betrayal of your responsibilities to your children and of their trust in you,” he added.

‘Birthday party’

She told her husband she was taking the children to a birthday party, the court heard previously.

She later admitted to police she had planned to travel to Syria and ultimately to Mosul in Iraq, but did not tell family as they would not approve.

The 34-year-old was born in the UK and spent her formative years in Pakistan before returning to live in Bradford.

She became increasingly religious and gave up her job in finance last August, indicating it was “inconsistent” with her religious beliefs.

Joanne Shepherd, defending, said the woman did not intend to cause any harm to her children.

The woman, who sat in the dock wearing a black hijab, smiled as she was sentenced.

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‘If he wants to be a part of my life he can’: Woman who grew up in Australia not knowing she was kidnapped from the U.S. as a baby by her mother meets her biological father for the first time


April 27, 2015

Source: Yahoo, BBC

‘If he wants to be a part of my life he can’: Woman who grew up in Australia not knowing she was kidnapped from the U.S. as a baby by her mother meets her biological father for the first time

  • Samantha Geldenhuys was born in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Her mother kidnapped her and eventually settled in Queensland, Australia
  • Dorothy Barnett snatched her from her father when she was just a child
  • Now Barnett, who was under the alias Alexandria Geldenhuys, is in jail
  • Samantha was born Savanna Todd, but only found out when she was 21
  • Recently she met her biological dad Benjamin Harris Todd III for first time
  • Her step-dad Juan Geldenhuys died a week before Barnett was arrested

A young woman who was kidnapped by her mother as a baby and taken across the world from the US to Australia has spoken about the moment she met her biological father.

Samantha Geldenhuys, born Savanna Todd, recently discovered her mother’s name was not Alexandria Geldenhuys but Dorothy Barnett, and the man she thought was her father was actually her step-dad.

Now, the 21-year-old, who grew up in the beachside suburb of Townsville, has opened up to Channel Seven’s Sunday Night about coming to terms with the shocking news about her mother being an international fugitive, and meeting her biological father for the first time.

‘It was good, it was casual, it was really nice,’ Samantha said of her ‘secret’ meeting with father Benjamin Harris Todd III.

Scroll down for video 

Samantha Geldenhuys, born Savanna Todd, recently discovered the truth about her past and opened up to Channel Sevens' Sunday Night program about her journey

Samantha Geldenhuys on meeting her father for the first time

‘As I said in the courtroom once I have my mother sorted, I have the opportunity to continue my life, and if he wants to be a part of it then he can’, she added.

At the end of last year the young Queensland woman travelled to Charleston, South Carolina where her mother is currently imprisoned.

This followed the moment the Australian Federal Police came knocking on the door of the family home and arrested Samantha’s mother.

That was when the young blonde learned she was the subject of one of America’s longest running child kidnapping cases, and that her mother’s real name was Dorothy Barnett who was an international fugitive wanted by US federal authorities.

Samantha’s father, a wealthy stockbroker, was granted sole custody of her when she was just a young baby, after a custody battle in court where Todd claimed Samantha’s mother Ms Barnett was abusive and unstable.

Samantha's father, Benjamin Harris Todd III, a wealthy stockbroker, was granted sole custody of her when she was just a young baby, and described meeting his now adult daughter as 'wonderful'.

For 20 years Samantha Geldenhuys (pictured) thought she was an ordinary young woman, but then police came and arrested her mother at their Townsville home and Sam learned she was the centre of America’s longest running child kidnapping case and her mum was an international fugitive

Never gave up hope: Savanna's father Benjamin Todd II (pictured with his baby daughter in 1994) never stopped hoping his kidnapped daughter would be found and each year updated her room and made a video for each of her birthdays

Dorothy Lee Barnett pictured with baby Savanna kidnapped her daughter after a bitter custody battle and absconded to South Africa and eventually Australia where she lived as a fugitive under an assumed name until her lie unravelled following a slip of the tongue while drinking with friends

Dorothy Lee Barnett pictured with baby Savanna kidnapped her daughter after a bitter custody battle and absconded to South Africa and eventually Australia where she lived as a fugitive under an assumed name until her lie unravelled following a slip of the tongue while drinking with friends

‘Unfortunately in the absence of knowledge one’s mind can conjure up all sorts of things,’ Mr Todd told Sunday Night, speaking of the two decades he has been without his daughter.

But on an unsupervised visit, Samantha’s mother fled the country with her, first travelling to Asia and South Africa before settling in Queensland, Australia.

‘She just took me and ran,’ Sam told Channel Seven. ‘She started anew just for me.’

It was a lot to take in the blur that followed. Sam’s mother made several appearances during extradition hearings in a Queensland court before Ms Barnett was finally deported to the US and immediately placed in prison.

Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program accompanied Ms Geldenhuys to the US for a tearful reunion with her mother and to attend 53-year-old Ms Barnett’s trial on Parental Kidnapping and US Passport Fraud charges, for which she is now serving prison time.

The only father she knew: Savanna, pictured as a toddler, was renamed Samantha. She is in the arms of the man she thought was her father, her stepfather, Juan Geldenhuys, who later died before Samantha learned the incredible truth about her past

Another life: Samantha pictured with the mother she knew as Alex Geldenhuys, whose real name was revealed as Dorothy Barnett following her dramatic arrest in Queensland last year and deportation back to a US Jail

Another life: Samantha pictured with the mother she knew as Alex Geldenhuys, whose real name was revealed as Dorothy Barnett following her dramatic arrest in Queensland last year and deportation back to a US Jail

Samantha and her real father Benjamin Todd III pictured together just months before Savanna disappeared. Following her parents' separation her father was awarded full custody of Savanna

A still from footage of baby Savanna before her kidnapping by her mother, who was only allowed supervised acess to her daughter after a court case in which Benjamin Todd III alleged Barnett was bipolar

A still from footage of baby Savanna before her kidnapping by her mother, who was only allowed supervised acess to her daughter after a court case in which Benjamin Todd III alleged Barnett was bipolar

Sunday Night tells the story of mystery baby Savanna Todd

While Stateside Samantha also made contact with the friends and family she would have had, had she not been kidnapped by her mother.

Patty Roth, Barnett’s former best friend was particularly emotional about the reunion.

‘She instantly bonded with my girls, and that was special,’ Patty told Sunday Night.

The dramatic events of Sam’s past began on an access visit in 1994, when Dorothy Barnett did not return baby Savanna to Benjamin Todd and the two disappeared.

Todd and Barnett had been engaged in a bitter custody battle, but each side has different reasons for the failure of their doomed relationship.

Benjamin Todd II was a softly spoken ‘southern gentleman’ and classical music lover, the son of a nurse and a doctor from Kentucky who entered a career working at financial management company Merrill Lynch in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dorothy Lee Barnett, had been raised by a single mother and stepfather on welfare, and had travelled extensively, running a piggery in Belize, a jewellery business in Africa, before finally settling for a job as a flight attendant.

Samantha and her mother not long after fleeing. Todd and Barnett had been engaged in a bitter custody battle, but each side has different reasons for the failure of their doomed relationship

Savanna now named Samantha with stepfather Juan and mother Dorothy, now known as Alex, in South Africa

A young Samantha who insists she had a loving, stable upbringing and that her mother was nothing but loving, doting on herself and her younger half-brother, who's father is Samantha's late stepfather Juan

A young Samantha who insists she had a loving, stable upbringing and that her mother was nothing but loving, doting on herself and her younger half-brother, who’s father is Samantha’s late stepfather Juan

Samantha last year after learning the truth about her past

Savanna Todd as a baby with her mother Dorothy before Ms Barnett fled overseas and began living life under the radar until her arrest in Townsville last year

Loving relationship: Barnett and 11-month-old Savanna disappeared and embarked on their lives as fugitives, travelling to Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa where Barnett married Juan Geldenhuys and had a son

When the pair met, and married after a whirlwind romance, Dorothy became pregnant with her daughter.

Dorothy Barnett’s friends told the Seven Network that Benjamin Todd had wanted Barnett to terminate her pregnancy with Savanna in 1993.

But when the marriage failed, it was Todd who gained custody of Savanna following a court case in which he alleged Barnett was bipolar, and she was awarded only supervised access to her baby daughter.

It was on one of these visits Barnett and 11-month-old Savanna disappeared and embarked on their lives as fugitives, travelling to Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa where Barnett married Juan Geldenhuys and they had a son.

Mr Todd's lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd 'never quit' looking for his daughter. 'For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,' Mr Sturgis said

Mr Todd’s lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd ‘never quit’ looking for his daughter. ‘For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,’ Mr Sturgis said

The couple emigrated to New Zealand, where they gained citizenship, and then Barnett and her children moved to Australia’s Sunshine Coast, where they were known as Alexandria, Samantha and Rhys Geldenhuys.

Juan Geldenhuys died from cancer just a week before ‘Alex Geldenhuys’ was arrested.

It was over evening drinks after a day’s sailing in 2011 that ‘Alex Geldenhuys’ slipped up.

Ms Barnett referred to Samantha as ‘Savanna’ and said she had fled an ‘abusive’ relationship in America.

Barnett’s South African friends went online and found a page on the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s website.

They saw pictures of a woman who looked like a younger ‘Alex’ and an age-advanced photo of a girl who resembled Samantha.

They contacted Benjamin Todd III in America. His long hunt for Savanna was over.

Tearful reunion: Samantha speaks on a phone to her mother inside the South Carolina prison where Dorothy Barnett is serving time for her kidnap and passport fraud offences 

Dorothy Barnett cries as she speaks with her daughter in the prison where she is serving 21 months after being deported and pleading guilty to kidnapping her own child from the US in 1994

As Mr Todd’s lawyer, J Graham Sturgis told Channel Seven, Benjamin Todd ‘never quit’ looking for his daughter.

‘For years he updated her room to be age appropriate and would record a video message to her on her birthdays,’ Mr Sturgis said.

‘It is a parent’s worst nightmare not to know what happened to a child [but] he never lost hope and pursued every possibility that might lead to her recovery.’

However, friends of Ms Barnett described Todd as an ‘evil, evil man’ while Barnett herself described his pursuit of her as ‘corrupt’ and ‘criminal’.

Whatever is the truth, the extraordinary story of how Ms Barnett eluded the FBI for two decades, and how her life as a lie unravelled, is said to have ‘deeply confused’ 21-year-old Samantha.

Sunday Night were with Samantha at the prison her mother was being held at when they reuinted

Channel Seven filmed her as she reunited with Ms Barnett in the South Carolina prison where she is serving a 21 month sentence after pleading guilty to one count of International Parental Kidnapping and two counts of False Statement in a Passport Application.

Ms Barnett will be required to undergo two years’ supervised parole following her release.

‘His daughter thus far has been reluctant to meet,’ J Graham Sturgis, told Daily Mail Australia, before the airing of the program.

‘She only knows her mother and the misinformation that has been provided her. She likely would be considered by her mother to be disloyal if she were to meet [Todd] at this time.’

Child Recovery Agents Parental Kidnapping

Mr Sturgis said the intensely private stockbroker understood why the daughter snatched from him and who never knew him as father had held off from speaking with him, and that he feared jeopardising his hoped-for reunion with her.

But Mr Sturgis said Todd yearned for the ‘long awaited opportunity’ of meeting Savanna and had literally counted the days – 19 years, six months and 12 days – from the access visit on which Savanna disappeared to when Australian police knocked on a door in faraway Townsville and his long lost daughter was found.

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Hong Kong accepts the accession of Andorra, Korea, Morocco, Russia and Japan to the Child Abduction and Custody


October 17 , 2014

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Child Abduction and Custody (Parties to Convention) (Amendment) Order 2014 made by the Chief Executive under Section 4 of the Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance was gazetted today (October 17).

The Amendment Order serves to add the Principality of Andorra (Andorra), the Republic of Korea (Korea), the Kingdom of Morocco (Morocco), the Russian Federation (Russia) and Japan to the list of Contracting States in the Child Abduction and Custody (Parties to Convention) Order (Chapter 512A), so as to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Convention) between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the aforementioned States.

Hong Kong Children

A spokesperson for the Labour and Welfare Bureau said, “The Convention provides an effective international mechanism for the swift return of children wrongfully removed from their place of habitual residence to another Contracting State in violation of custodial rights. The Convention is now in force in 92 Contracting States.”

He pointed out that the Central People’s Government accepted the accession of Andorra, Korea, Morocco and Russia to the Convention on behalf of HKSAR in November 2013. With Japan ratifying the Convention in January 2014, the Convention has also entered into force between HKSAR and Japan.

In accordance with the requirements of the Convention, the Amendment Order specifies February 1, 2014 and April 1, 2014 as the respective dates on which the Convention came into force between the HKSAR and Andorra, Korea, Morocco and Russia; and between the HKSAR and Japan.

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India Considered ‘Safe Haven’ For Parental Child Abduction


By Steven Tanner on November 9, 2010 8:58 AMNo TrackBacks

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Rex Arul uses President Barack Obama’s upcoming diplomatic trip to India as an opportunity to speak out about abductions of U.S. children to the South Asian country. The U.S. has more unresolved parental child abduction cases involving India than any other country besides Mexico, according to the U.S. State Department.

The State Dept. currently is working on more than 100 cases involving U.S. children taken to India by a parent against the will of the other parent; and overall, there has been a 160 percent increase in parental abductions from the U.S. to other countries in the past 10 years.

But despite the best efforts of even the most skilled Atlanta divorce lawyers, it’s extremely difficult to convince the Indian courts to honor a U.S. custody order in most cases. In fact, India has the dubious distinction of being a “safe haven” for international child abduction, most often by one of the child’s parents.

India has not ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, even though 80 other nations have since its drafting 30 years ago. Signatories of the international treaty agree to return abducted children back to their homes in honor of the home country’s family courts.

Instead of honoring U.S. court orders pertaining to child custody, Indian courts often assume jurisdiction and hear cases as if they hadn’t been tried in the U.S. And since more than 30 million such cases are pending in the Indian courts, causing long delays, the columnist claims this gives abducting parents time to “create facts to argue that the American child is settled in India.”

And even if your child is abducted to India and you seek help from the  State Dept., its website offers the following warning:

“Once a child has been abducted to India, remedies are very few.”

That’s not very encouraging. But speaking with a Georgia family law attorney if you believe your child may be abducted to India could go a long way toward preventing it in the first place.

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