Tuesday 19 September 2017

Family in anguish as daughter snatched by dad to Syria

May Assad Monaghan (6) with her mother Louise Monaghan and her father Mustafa
Assad.
May Assad Monaghan (6) with her mother Louise Monaghan and her father Mustafa Assad.
Frank Monaghan holds a picture of his granddaughter yesterday as he pleaded for her to be returned

Fergus Black

A FAMILY last night made a desperate plea to a father to return his six-year-old Irish- born child after he kidnapped her and took her to war-torn Syria.

May Assad Monaghan (6), whose mother is from Swords, Dublin, was taken from her Limassol home in Cyprus on Wednesday by her father Mustafa Assad and brought to Syria.

Last night, as her mother Louise (36) maintained an agonising vigil in Cyprus for news of her safe return, May's aunt and grandfather pleaded with the child's dad to bring her back.

"All we have is hope. All we are asking is for the Irish people and the Government to get behind us to resolve this and to get May back," her distraught aunt, Mandy Monaghan, told the Irish Independent.

The child's grandfather, Frank Monaghan (70), who had been due to go on holiday from his home in Dublin to Cyprus tomorrow to see his granddaughter, also pleaded for her father to return her safe and well.

"All I want is to get May back. Please bring her back; we won't press charges," he said in a plea to Mr Assad.

May was born in Holles Street Hospital, Dublin, in 2005 but had been living in Cyprus with her mother Louise, who works for a travel company in Limassol.

She had married Mr Assad in a civil ceremony but the couple divorced last November.

May had been due to start school on Thursday at St Mary's private Catholic school in Limassol.

However, she failed to return home on Wednesday after her father had taken her out for the day.

It was only later, after reporting her disappearance to the police, that a frantic Louise discovered her estranged husband had taken May out of the country to his hometown of Idlib in Syria.

Mandy Monaghan, who flew out to Cyprus to be with her sister, said the family was "absolutely devastated" at what had happened.

She revealed that May had no passport and the family was trying to get her a new one as part of the efforts to get her out of Syria.

"At first we were hoping we could persuade Mustafa to return her. We offered him money but he was adamant that Louise goes to Syria and lives there.

Money

"He wants her to sell two cars and to take as much money as she can with her," said Mandy.

"Louise wants to go to Syria to get May back but I'm not letting my sister go there. It's a war-torn country.

"The only good thing is that Mustafa has been in contact. In other cases, a lot of children in similar situations just disappear."

Ms Monaghan said it was heartbreaking as little May still thought she was on holiday.

"She thinks she's on holiday and keeps saying, 'Where are you, mammy?'."

Mr Monaghan said Louise was "in bits" over the loss of her daughter.

"We just want May back, whatever it takes," he said.

"She is in a very bad place. Whatever is done, it will have to be done quickly because the longer this goes on the worse it will be."

Mr Monaghan said he had last seen May about 14 months ago and had been particularly looking forward to his trip to Cyprus tomorrow. But he said that has now been cancelled as he maintains a constant vigil by the phone at home in Swords.

He also revealed that he had had a good relationship with Mr Assad but that the child's father had "changed" about a year ago.

"I would say to him now just bring the child back and we won't press charges.

"If you want to see her again you can come to her house."

Last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance to the family from the Irish embassies in Cairo and Cyprus.

Irish Independent

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