National Post

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February 3, 2001

Mother of triplets returns to charges

Parental abduction

Mary Vallis
National Post, with files from The Canadian Press

Tannis Toohey, The Canadian Press
Carline Vandenelsen, left, is led in handcuffs to a waiting police vehicle yesterday by Special Constable Linda Skelding, of the Stratford Police, at Pearson International Airport.

An Ontario woman accused of abducting her eight-year-old triplets returned to Canada yesterday to face charges.

Carline Vandenelsen arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport last night on a flight from Mexico City. She is expected to make a court appearance today on parental abduction charges.

"She was turned over to two of our officers in Mexico [yesterday] morning," said Inspector John Hargarty of the Stratford, Ont., police force.

Ms. Vandenelsen, 38, was arrested on Jan. 21 in Acapulco, where she is said to have rented a house.

Her children -- Peter, Gray and Olivia -- disappeared on Oct. 14 after a visit with their mother. Police believe she took the children to Halifax; Corpus Christi, Tex.; Panama; and Mexico.The children were reunited with their father last month in Acapulco.

Ms. Vandenelsen was brought back by two plainclothes officers, sitting at the back of an Air Canada flight. She had her nose buried in a paperback for most of the flight, but appeared cheerful and happy at the prospect of returning, grinning and nodding at a reporter who was also on the flight.

She was the last passenger off the plane, and walked off handcuffed to a female officer.

She was met by several officers in the boarding area and was hustled out of the airport.

Ms. Vandenelsen had waived her extradition hearing and agreed to be transferred to a Canadian prison. She waited for extradition in a detention centre for women near Mexico City.

In an interview with the National Post, she disputed media reports her children were mistreated during their time on the run.

Craig Merkley has had custody of the triplets since 1995, when Ms. Vandenelsen left to pursue a music career.

Two years later, she returned to Stratford and began fighting for custody. Her access to the children was restricted this year after a judge heard evidence of her attempts to manipulate them.

Ms. Vandenelsen told the Post that five years of allegations against her have never been proven, and insisted her recent actions were out of love for her children. She said she is anxious to tell her version of events.

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