A British mother who ran away from her lesbian ex with their daughter has been arrested while trying to land a dinghy on the island of Jersey after three years on the run.
Lauren Etchells was in a relationship with Tasha Brown in Canada, but disappeared with their young daughter Kaydance in 2016, after the couple split and became embroiled in a custody battle.
Etchells said she wanted to start a relationship with the girl’s biological father, Marco van der Merwe, and for Kaydance ‘to grow up with her biological family’.
She is thought to have travelled through Europe and the Middle East while she was the subject of an arrest warrant.
Etchells, originally from South Shields, has now been arrested along with her parents Brian and Angela Etchells after they tried to land a 13-foot inflatable raft in the Channel Island, police in Canada have said.
The arrested group told officers they were holidaying in France and had decided to ‘pop over to Jersey for a visit’ when they were spotted on July, according to a statement from Saanich Police in Western Canada.
No one in the dinghy had passports and they were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, police have said.
Jersey Police later said a 33-year-old woman, understood to be Etchells, had admitted immigration offences.
Two people in their 60s, understood to be their parents, have admitted aiding and abetting and immigration offences. Jersey Police did not name any of those who had appeared in court.
A spokesman for Jersey Police said: ‘Two children, a girl aged four and boy aged three, were also on board’.
It is understood Lauren faces possible extradition to Canada. She is being held in custody on the island for at least the next four weeks.
In a statement, Ms Brown, of Vancouver Island, said: ‘I am extremely grateful to learn she is in good health and good care.
‘I am celebrating. Kaydance is alive, and we know where she is. But I can’t celebrate 100 per cent yet. Not until Kaydance is back in Canada.’
Ms Brown continued: ‘I am spending today with my lawyer, and the various other agencies involved in bringing Kaydance home safely and soon. But there is a lot I still need to do.’
She thank law enforcement agencies in Canada and Europe who helped her during the search for her daughter.
She added: ‘I am also grateful for the love I received from the friends and family who kept me going during the lowest of lows. I guess a person can survive on hope. Thank you all for this reminder.’
Mr van der Merwe has previously denied being a sperm donor and insisted he thought Etchells was free to travel when she went missing.
Ms Brown and Etchells, who was 31 when she fled Canada, had been together for nine years and were both named on the birth certificate as Kaydance’s parents.
But when Ms Brown wanted to work at a private international school in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) she successfully applied to a Canadian Court in 2015 for her name to be removed from the birth certificate.
Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE, and the lesbian couple would not have been able to enter the country with the two women named as parents.
She came to regret this decision when the relationship broke down with Lauren following a visit from who Lauren described the couple’s sperm donor and friend, Marco van der Merwe in July 2015.
Ms Brown cancelled her teaching contract in the UAE, and asked Lauren to put her name back on Kaydance’s birth certificate, but she refused.
In August 2015, a judge issued an apprehension order that allowed Ms Brown to visit Kaydance.
The judge also ordered that Etchells surrender her and Kaydance’s passports, and not leave Vancouver Island, Canada. She was also ordered not to apply for a Canadian Passport for Kaydance.
In September 2015 Lauren got engaged to Marco, who has denied being a sperm donor, and became pregnant, giving birth to a boy, Marcus, in April 2016.
Unbeknown to Ms Brown, Etchells had applied for a Canadian passport for Kaydance, against the court order and had gained permission to renew her own British passport.
The passports were used by Etchells to flee the country with Kaydance on May 8, 2016.
After they left, Ms Brown said she was tricked by Lauren in to thinking that her daughter was still in Canada via Skype calls.
Six days later, she realised the truth when Lauren did not drop off the tot for a scheduled visit.
Ms Brown has appealed for her daughter’s return ever since and never gave up hope she’d be found.
In 2016, Etchells emailed The Times newspaper from an undisclosed location insisting Kaydance was better off with her.
She wrote: ‘At some point the system needs to look at the straight facts and see that Kaydance is better off with me instead of getting blinded and caught up in political correctness and bureaucracy.
‘Breaking up her family, separating her from her mother and brother and the man she knows as her father is
going to do far more psychological damage to her than growing up not knowing… Ms Brown.’
Sergeant Julie Fast, Public Information Officer for the Saanich Police said: ‘We are extremely pleased to report that 4-year-old Kaydance has been located and is in the care of the appropriate authorities in Jersey.
‘She is in good health, is happy and appears to have been well cared for.’
A spokesperson for the force added: ‘The process of bringing Kaydance and Lauren back to Canada has now begun but it will take time.
‘Our investigators are committed to working through the scope and intricacies of these next steps, and are thankful for the excellent support provided by all our partnering agencies.’
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