Vancouver Province

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Dragnet closing in on mom on the run

Charlie Anderson
The Province

Phyllis Hollett

Gavin Hollett

Phyllis Hollett is one mom who will spend Mother's Day looking over her shoulder, as she becomes the target of a 6,000-poster campaign throughout B.C. and Alberta.

Hollett has been on the run for some eight years after disappearing from Ontario with her then four-year-old son Gavin.

Jack Morkin, an investigator with the Missing Children Society of Canada believes he is zeroing in on Hollett, who was last seen in early January on Saltspring Island.

She had spent six months there living with Gavin under false names in a bid to evade a Canada-wide warrant for child abduction.

"I'm as close as anybody has been since she left," said Morkin. "I'm going to have her sooner rather than later. I'm very focused on this file."

Morkin says his concern is not with catching Hollett, but more with finding Gavin and getting him out of an "abusive relationship."

He fears that years of living a life of lies and constantly being on the run pose a threat to Gavin's emotional future.

Morkin, who was handed the Hollett file one year ago, says the case goes back to Hollett's disappearance in 1994 when Gavin was four. She had broken up with Gavin's father, Doug Gibbon, in 1990, about six months after the boy's birth.

Hollett was granted custody, with Gibbon having visitation rights. At one point, Hollett accused Gibbon of sexually abusing Gavin.

The case was tossed out of court and Hollett disappeared with Gavin, leaving an elder son from another relationship behind. By disappearing, Hollett breached the court-ordered custody arrangements.

The most recent sighting of the pair was on Saltspring, where they lived for six months between July 2001 and Jan. 2, 2002, under the names of Jan and Justin Stevens.

They apparently arrived from Vernon but had lived before that in several small B.C. communities.

The latest photograph of Gavin is a school picture from Nakusp.

Morkin says their pattern is to enter a community through a transition house. Hollett then advertises for accommodation in a local newspaper, giving an unlisted telephone number.

She describes herself as "a reliable caretaker with experience in carpentry, decorating, painting and organic gardening." Her aliases include Willow, Jennifer, Janet and Jan.

Morkin says transition houses have been a mixed blessing in the investigation. Some of them, he says, have helped with information "after the fact" in a desire to help "the needs of the child."

"But a number of transition houses and women's groups have been instrumental in hiding her despite the fact that she is wanted by the police," said Morkin.

"They even have concerns about the detrimental lifestyle to that child and yet they protect her because she's a woman. That I find offensive."

Morkin says Hollett is drawn to "anti-establishment" type communities and works for environmental causes.

He said she tells people her ex-partner is a Satanist or that he was killed in a car accident and that she is fleeing from his parents, who blame her.

If Gavin is found, Gibbon will be given temporary custody until a court can make a final ruling.

"He was my firstborn," Gibbon told the Gulf Islands Driftwood. "It extends beyond me . . . he was my parents' first grandchild."

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