Ottawa Citizen
Saturday February 03, 2001

Mother of triplets back in Canada to face parental abduction charges

The Ottawa Citizen

(CP/Tannis Toohey) Carline Vandenelsen is taken away in a police vehicle from the Toronto International Airport Friday.

STRATFORD, Ont. (CP) - The mother of eight-year-old triplets allegedly abducted in a three-month journey that took them to the Maritimes, Texas and Mexico returned to this southwestern Ontario city late Friday night to face charges.

Carline Vandenelsen arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport from Mexico at about 9 p.m. and was driven into the garage at Stratford police headquarters before midnight.

"She was quiet and co-operative," Stratford police Sgt. John Wilson said.

"There was not much conversation, nothing to do with the actual situation she's in," Wilson said Friday.

Wilson and another officer left Stratford on Thursday morning, arriving in Mexico City that night.

The officers met with Mexican embassy staff before Mexican federal police and Interpol turned over custody of Vandenelsen to them shortly before they got on the plane Friday to return to Canada, Wilson said.

Upon arrival in Stratford, where her three children, Olivia, Gray and Peter Merkley, have been reunited with their father, Craig Merkley, Vandenelsen met with legal counsel.

After a court hearing via teleconferencing on Saturday, Vandenelsen will be taken to a detention centre in London, Ont.

She returns to Stratford Monday for a court appearance to set a date for a bail hearing on parental abduction charges.

Merkley has had custody of the children since he and Vandenelsen separated five years ago. Last year, the courts reduced Vandenelsen's access to her children to every other Saturday.

Father and children were reunited late last month in Acapulco after the triplets were taken in by police and Canadian Embassy officials three months after their disappearance.

Vandenelsen was taken into custody to await extradition.

The triplets returned to Canada on Jan. 22, and have enjoyed a joyous reunion with friends and family. They returned to school last week.

The children were allegedly abducted while on a supervised day visit with Vandenelsen on Oct. 14.

Detectives said they chased dozens of tips and sightings of Vandenelsen, including a trail running from her mother's home in Stratford to Halifax and on to Central America.

In an interview from Acapulco last week, Vandenelsen told the National Post that she wouldn't fight extradition and was eager to return to Canada to tell her side of the story in court.

She added she was forced to act since the justice system didn't give her enough time with her children.

© The Canadian Press, 2001

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.