Read Mummy Where Are You? (Revised Edition, new) Online
Authors: Jeanne D'Olivier
I couldn't move. I was cold, even though it was ninety degrees outside. I howled like a wild animal caught in a trap from the very depths of my soul for hours. I was frantic with worry for M, how he was feeling, was anyone holding him through his tears? Were the people he had gone to kind? I felt totally powerless – I knew my precious child was somewhere out there in the dark lonely night, probably only a few miles away and yet I had no idea where to look or how to find him. I had never experienced the intensity of the pain I felt that night – they may as well have cut out my heart and left me for dead. It would have been kinder.
I had rung my father and told him what had happened. He was now on his way. He had been reticent about coming – typically Dad, not sure it was the right thing to do. The right thing to do? That he even had to consider it was a mystery to me. But then, I was to understand why he was nervous – it was Dad who had given us up. The worst betrayal of my life and of M’s – my father, his beloved grandfather had weakened under the police pressure and disclosed that we had gone to America, and from there it had been easy. They had only to see who I knew in the area and given that my uncle and aunt had been over to the Island for my mother’s funeral only months earlier – their identity whilst not the most obvious people they'd think of, was no mystery.
I had known a couple of weeks earlier that Dad had been ordered by the Court to give a statement by way of an affidavit. I did not see the contents of this for a long time. He only had to say he didn’t know where we were but Dad is a man who cannot lie, even to protect his own. He was frightened, old and had always lived an honest life. In hindsight we asked too much of him to go against his character and in many ways he was very naive as the police persuaded him that things would be worse for us if he did not give us up and we were found. He didn't have the courage that my seven year old had shown but he had never needed it and this was way beyond what he could handle. At the time he had told them we had gone to the States, he had assured me that they still wouldn't find us.. He did not tell me he had actually told them where we had flown to – but as soon as he did that, we were sitting ducks. The knock on the door had been inevitable from that moment.
It is conceivable that they may have already known our whereabouts before they got Dad's written statement. In fact, it is probable as Interpol were already alerted from when we left the UK but it was a clever move on the part of the Island's authorities to use Dad in this way - they hoped to sever our relationship in doing so and thus further isolate me from both emotional and financial support when we came to fight to get M back. It is perhaps a testament of how strong our relationship is, that whilst we came close to breaking, I learned to forgive and to understand over time. But at that moment when M was taken, all I could see was my pain and M's and the injustice of it all raged like a red angry monster inside me. Sadly Dad paid a high price for his actions, both financially and emotionally. For whilst we had been persuaded by our lawyer that running would bring an end to the stresses and financial demands of litigation, the money we had spent already was nothing to what we would face from this moment on.
Our legal counsel had advised that even if we were found, it would take years to bring us back. He had not warned us that M could be apprehended if we were. He had not advised us correctly and the dominoes began tumbling down as one piece of bad advice and each betrayal had a knock on effect on the rest.
My hurt and anger towards Dad were an unbearable burden. I blamed him entirely for what had happened to M in being taken and that anger burned furiously within me as the consequences of losing M became worse and worse over the next months. For this was only the beginning of what was to become a living bereavement – a bereavement that keeps you in a state of hell, where you can never reach a point of acceptance or move on.
I had watched my sister die at a relatively early age on a life-support machine - a once vital, radiant soul, full of life, cut off in her prime. I had thought then that nature could never be this cruel again but what I hadn't bargained for was the cruelty of things that go against nature.
This was different to when my sister died, painful and tragic as that had been but it did not compare to what I was enduring now because what had happened to my beautiful sister was as a result of a biological problem, a defect from birth that had lain in her brain waiting to explode at a given moment and whilst that grief and loss remains with me, I had no option but to come to terms with what had happened as a quirk of nature, not due to the evil of man's inhumanity to man.
My longing for the child I had carried within me through pregnancy, given birth to, raised alone, adored, cherished and the centre of my universe was all-consuming. I had not minded the lack of a man in my life, other than my precious little boy. I had everything I wanted in the immense love I felt for M and the fun we shared together - The cycling out to the lighthouse on our bikes in summer – the picnics on the beach – the horse riding lessons we shared – swimming, basketball, even football and snooker – I learned to do boy things and even enjoy them.
I stood freezing, clutching a coffee with the other parents on Saturdays on the Tag Rugby field. I moaned at the time, as they did, but I would have given anything in that moment to be right back there with M safe with his friends – if only the abuse hadn’t happened.
For my son had dared to tell me. He had dared to ask Mummy to help him to escape from the hell he was experiencing every time he stayed with his father. He had expected Mummy to save him, but right now we had just swapped one hell for another. I will never forget that night and I don’t expect M will either. I can only imagine the damage it has caused him. For me, I will never be the same – the person I was is long gone – all that is left is a shell of unhappiness and grief and longing. I have faded into this black and white movie that refuses to end and plays continuously day and night through my mind. Does it play through M’s? I may never know.
My anger at Dad was almost as crippling as my anger at the system that had done this. The far-reaching evil hands of Social Services – the cruel manipulations of a Court determined to punish us for daring to thwart their orders, a Court that would hurt an innocent child to punish his mother and make her an example should others decide to take their lives into their own hands and seek freedom. For we were not alone, there were others in the same situation – I did not know just how many then.
I was now caught in between my need for the comfort of having Dad with me, and my desire to never set eyes on him again. But part of me wanted to understand what had made him give us up – what was it he was thinking as he signed over our lives to the cruel hands from which we had run – even after the night before he had gone to Court my son had begged him on
– “Please Grandad – be strong – I love you. I know you can be strong.” A little boy of seven with his life still to live – a life that had been damaged and full of fear so far – a little boy who was begging his Grandad to protect him from his abuser – to let him live free with the Mummy he loved. The Grandad he looked up to and adored, had given him up in a moment – a moment of human weakness and fear. It was one of my greatest challenges to overcome this but over time I did and over time I tried to understand - that journey may never end too.
I was to later learn that Dad had also not admitted his part in the abduction and that was another test on my love for him - but he had taken the advice of a lawyer that had a vested interest in helping to protect the system she herself benefitted from in every relationship break-up that walked through her door. Sadly there are few lawyers out there who really do fight for their clients in the family court system. It is a combination of two things, one that they need to keep in favour with the Court and the system if they are to maintain their livelihoods and secondly they are powerless against a juggernaut that has so much force it crushes everything in its wake. So long as the Courts go on allowing hearsay evidence behind a wall of secrecy, injustice will be common in an environment that hides behind a mantra of "best interests of the child." What that means in reality is the power of the system to act in its own best interest.
Despite everything Dad was still my father and I loved him and I have had to forgive his weakness as it was borne not out of a deliberate wish to harm us, but out a lack of understanding of how this would end - if it ever did. At that time I firmly believe he thought that the truth would out and justice would be done. He could not grasp just how corrupt the system was and what sinister groups may lie within it - paedophile rings - freemasonry - police corruption - the stuff of conspiracy novels - inconceivable in Britain in the twenty first century - but reality is often stranger than fiction.
Dad believed that we would have been found anyway. He may have been right, but as I lay on that floor unable to move and in the agony of despair, I only saw that he had given us up and that M was gone and suffering immeasurable anguish and fear.
We had been like Jews hiding in the attic, handed over to the Nazis and at that time I saw his betrayal as trying to protect his own life – a life that was almost at end, when my little boy’s life had barely begun. If it had been anyone else who had shopped us, I could have borne it more easily, but I now had the added pain of knowing it was someone I truly loved and trusted and our relationship might never be the same again. Another bereavement to bear and one I suspect shared with many across Britain today who find themselves in similar circumstances. For those left behind are manipulated, promised, emotionally blackmailed and even threatened by the police and the social services. Torturing elderly relatives into disclosing their own, is child's play to those who will protect the system at all costs.
Morning came at last and I tried again to contact the CAS for information. I could get none. It was Saturday – they didn’t even know who I was at first. They told me my son was fine – but how could I know if that was true and did it really seem likely? I needed proof. I needed to see him and hold him. “Ring back on Tuesday when we reopen.” The slow American drawl said the words as if I had been asking for the opening hours of the local library – always polite – but without emotion.
I wrote to the lawyer, Martha-Jane by email. I tried to put in fifty lines, the synopsis of our last three years. My hands were still trembling – but at least it was something to do and I had to do something. I explained to her why we had run – the abuse – the Courts, but how do you tell a lawyer in a westernised country that there is corruption in a small Scottish Island. Are they likely to believe you? Even as I wrote the words, I knew that it would sound “incredible”. I knew she would not believe me and sure enough her response later that night, was to go back and face the music. Offer to go back to the Island voluntarily, hands up guilty and eat humble pie. Looking back, perhaps that was not bad advice, but I still believed I could save M. I still believed that the American Courts would not send a child back to an abuser. I still wanted to try and protect him from the terrible life he would face if he was sent back and given to his father as seemed even more likely now. I thanked her for her advice but I decided to get at least one other opinion before I gave up. Perhaps I could still salvage our dream of living free ? I had to try. M deserved that at least.
Tania, Larry's wife was deeply sympathetic and empathised with me as a mother and also as a woman who had faced a bitter divorce. Her ex-husband had tried to say she was an unfit mother and had put her through something of hell, but I guess the fact she then married a lawyer must have been a help. She had come through it scarred but with her family intact. She told me that there would be a hearing within five days of taking M. She said the CAS had to show cause as to why they had taken him and she offered to contact the Court and see when the hearing was set down for and let me know. She was amazing. She contacted Duty Counsel, a very nice female lawyer called Louise who advised that in the absence of securing my own lawyer in time for the hearing which was scheduled for the Wednesday of the following week, she would represent me and that I could meet her at the Court and fill her in on some of the details but I should go on trying to find a lawyer to take the case forward in the meantime.
My aunt and uncle picked my father up from the airport and dropped him at the house on the Sunday. He was angry with them for not giving us more support and for throwing us out of their home. However, the practical offer of a lift from the airport when I had no transport was accepted. It was, he felt the least they could do for family. So long as they didn’t enter my home, I was fine with it. They had made their feelings clear when they had not only abandoned us on the highway but on meeting the friends who had rallied around me on the fateful day they took M, had said “well, of course, we only know one side of the story.” It had cut me like a knife – there
only one side of the story – the truth and that was the side I had given them and yet they were not prepared to listen or accept without question the testimony of one of their own.
My mother had never liked her brother much. He had been an arrogant and bullying man all his life, much like her own father. He did not treat my aunt kindly and was an extreme chauvinist. He went to church on Sundays, but he certainly didn’t practice his faith.