Calgary Herald

Saturday, March 02, 2002

Painful family drama ends in mom's arrest

Man hadn't seen sons since November

Deborah Tetley
Calgary Herald

Mikael Kjellström, Calgary Herald
A woman is driven away by police Friday.

Colleen Kidd, Calgary Herald
A St. Paul man is reunited with his sons at airport.

An international child abduction investigation hit a climax at Calgary International Airport Friday with a mother's arrest on child abduction charges and a tearful reunion between a father and the estranged couple's two young sons.

City police allege the 33-year-old former Calgary woman abducted her two sons, aged six and two, and fled the country in November 2001, five months after a separation from her husband, who lives in St. Paul, Alta.

After the father complained to police, an application was filed to have the children returned. Canada-wide warrants were issued for the arrest of the mother for child abduction after she was tracked to a suburb of Denver, police said.

On Wednesday, the 32-year-old father learned through his sister-in-law that his wife had booked a flight to Calgary because one of the children required medical attention for a pre-existing health condition.

"She was supposed to go to Disneyland for a week on a vacation," said the anxious father, moments before reuniting with his boys. "I let her go there and then I had a phone call sometime in Dec-ember and she said she was in Colorado and she wasn't coming home."

The Herald is not naming any of the family members to protect the identity of the children involved.

Police said the mother, who holds both Polish and Canadian citizenship, was considered a flight risk and was unaware of her imminent arrest until she passed through Canada Customs.

"The mother (was) not aware of the situation," Det. John Watson said. "But by the time she got into customs, she knew something was up."

She faces a minimum of two years and a maximum 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Moments before the flight landed, Watson informed the woman's older sister, on hand to meet the woman and her two children, of the pending arrest and she fainted.

The dark-haired father, tall, slim and jittery, paced as he waited for his children to pass through the international arrival doors.

He stuffed his hands in his khaki pants pockets and pulled them out again, checked his watch, wrung his hands together, blew on them and poked them back into his pockets.

"I'm nervous as hell," he said as the seconds ticked away. "The anticipation is killing me. Four months of hell comes down to this."

The flight was more than an hour and a half delayed due to heavy snow in Denver.

"It's hot," he whispered. "I wish I had some water. Every time I look and see kids coming, my heart jumps."

When they finally walked through the doors, flanked by Watson, the father ran toward his children.

Watson bent down and whispered to the eldest son and dropped their hands.

The older boy cocked his head to one side, scrunched his face up and cried as the dad scooped his sons to his chest and showered them with kisses.

Watson said the mother sat down with the children and said goodbye before police took her into custody.

"Mom had an opportunity to explain the situation," he said. "They hugged mom and kissed her goodbye and came out to see their dad."

The father told the Herald before the flight landed he didn't want to see his estranged wife go to jail. "She's not a bad mother," he said.

The couple were married for nine years and lived in St. Paul until their separation in July 2001.

© Copyright  2002 Calgary Herald