Toronto Sun

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Cops hunting accomplices

Mom who stole kids got help, they say

By JONATHAN SHER, SUN MEDIA
Toronto Sun
STRATFORD --  Police are tightening the noose around those who helped Carline Vandenelsen abduct her triplets, Sun Media has learned.

Accomplices helped the non-custodial mother evade authorities for more than three months in a trek through eastern Canada, the United States and Central America, Stratford Police Sgt. John Wilson said yesterday.

Those who aided the fugitive likely included relatives, he said, adding: "I have concerns about some (of her) family members."

Vandenelsen appeared to have regular contact with people back in Canada, her eight-year-old children told their father, Craig Merkley, who relayed the information to police.

That type of communication may have enabled Vandenelsen to keep a step ahead of authorities.

"We were fearful information was getting out to her," said Wilson, the lead investigator in Stratford.

As recently as two weeks ago, things looked bleak: Police suspected Vandenelsen had gone to Central America but knew little more.

Then came a tip that led police to documents pinpointing the address where Vandenelsen was staying in a rundown section of Acapulco, Mexico, Wilson said.

Wilson was on his way and a Mexican arrest warrant was approved Saturday night. The next day, Vandenelsen and daughter Olivia Merkley were seen leaving their row house about noon, and police moved in.

Vandenelsen was arrested and could be extradited to Canada to face abduction charges.

Meanwhile, Craig Merkley says he won't forget the squeals of joy that filled his home Monday night when his triplets returned from 14 weeks of horror.

"They couldn't wait to run to their rooms and get their toys," a tired but joyful Merkley said yesterday at his house.

For the first time since Oct. 14, Olivia, Gray and Peter Merkley woke up in their own beds yesterday.

They ate Frosted Flakes in their own kitchen, tumbled in the snow of their yard and played with their pets -- a dog, cat and rabbit.

A large banner hung across the front porch, greeting the Merkleys. Some neighbours brought food. But many kept away, afraid they'd steal away precious minutes between father and children.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.