Inside the secret network that hid a woman and the children she allegedly kidnapped


Updated

May 30, 2018 17:21:41

A woman who allegedly kidnapped her two daughters in 2014, after claiming they were abused by their father, seemed a “very together, normal person”, her supporters have said.

The ABC understands the woman had hundreds of supporters around the country, many of whom helped her slip under the radar for years.

The mother, 45, and her daughters, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were reported missing from Queensland in 2014.

They were found near Taree, on the New South Wales mid north coast, earlier this year.

Police alleged the girls were living with their father when they were taken by their mother, after being dropped off at a Townsville school.

Officers said the mother had made unsubstantiated claims that the girls were being sexually abused by their father.

A “well-organised network” of supporters helped the woman remain on the run from authorities, court documents have shown.

Mother given place to park caravan

Her supporters said the mother lived in a caravan and worked cash-in-hand jobs to support herself and her daughters.

She also home-schooled the children from various locations around NSW following their disappearance.

Annabelle* — not her real name — hosted the woman’s caravan on her property for several months and remained in contact with her after she disappeared from the mid north coast.

“She had got a caravan and she wanted to put it somewhere, and so in the end she put the caravan on our place and lived very independently on it.”

In affidavits tendered to the Supreme Court in Brisbane, police detail how the mother of two remained out of reach of authorities for four years.

According to the court documents, the girls said they had lived in northern Western Australia, Perth, and regional NSW, before they were picked up by police.

‘It was none of my business’

Henry* said he first encountered the family over two and a half years ago, and became close with the children, both aged 11.

“I was like their Pop, they trusted me,” he said.

“They were like 15-year-olds, they were very bright kids.”

Henry said he took the family to the snow and rodeo, but did not know the details of their circumstances until they were arrested.

“I just thought if there was any more to the story she would tell me, otherwise it was none of my business,” he said.

“She was just trying to give them as normal a life as she could.”

Several supporters have said they knew little about the woman’s background before deciding to help her.

“Life was very difficult for her, and I don’t think it’s the life you would choose unless you had a good reason to choose it,” Annabelle said.

“They were just like any single mum with a couple of kids. She is a very together, normal person.

“There were no signs of mental illness or paranoia, or any of the things that you could suspect.”

The police have a different view.

Police allege the woman used false identities and accessed a medical practitioner under a false name the day before she was arrested.

In an affidavit, Inspector David Miles alleged the woman was a significant risk of interfering with witnesses — her daughters.

“[She] poses a threat to her children’s continued emotional and psychological wellbeing,” he said.

Supporters wanted to help ‘lovely lady’

Despite knowing very little of where the woman had come from, or why, supporters who spoke to the ABC said they felt compelled to help.

Police said the woman’s supporters helped create a fake bank account.

“I just decided from our point of view she was a lovely lady with beautiful children who needed a place to stay and needed us just to keep our mouths shut,” Annabelle said.

“Of course I’ve only heard one side of the story, [but] there is no way you would choose all that; no Medicare, you can’t use your driver’s license, you can’t do anything.”

Another supporter close to the woman and children said there were hundreds of people who supported the family over the years.

“People have supported her for four years, and not just dozens, there are hundreds of people who support her in this country,” they said.

Police allege the woman was discovered with $2,300 in cash, as well as a $50 Kmart gift card.

They alleged she worked “odd jobs” to earn money.

Annabelle said the woman always paid her share of the electricity bill while residing on her property.

“She was very conscious that people were helping her and she didn’t want to be dependent but she had to be because of her circumstances,” she said.

Mother tried to give girls normal life

Multiple sources have told the ABC the children were home schooled while they were on the run.

“Obviously, education was a problem. She was very aware of all that,” Annabelle said.

“They did maths, reading, writing, art.

“It was like sort of home schooling but without the help of the Department of Education sending any resources.”

Henry said the woman spent much of her money on school resources.

“She spent thousands of dollars on just on school books for them,” he said.

“She was just trying to give them as normal a life as she could.”

Following her arrest near Taree earlier this month, the mother was granted bail on strict conditions and is due to appear in the Townsville Magistrates Court on July 16.

The ABC has reached out to her lawyer for comment.

Topics:

law-crime-and-justice,

community-and-society,

parenting,

family-and-children,

family-law,

townsville-4810,

taree-2430,

perth-6000

First posted

May 30, 2018 09:50:44



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