Out of Africa: Father reveals his amazing rescue of snatched son (7)
A father - whose son was abducted by his mother and taken to Africa - has revealed his desperate and dramatic crusade to successfully bring his son back home.
Richard Quarry's son Ethan (7) was snatched by his mother Elizabeth Daka during Easter last year and she took him to Zambia.
And Richard has spent the last nine months desperately trying to get his son back home. He had sole custody of Ethan at the time he was taken.
"It was just something that I didn't see coming,” he told independent.ie this morning.
“When you're a normal parent, you put your kids first and you would never do that to a kid - remove them from their surroundings like that."
"Ethan lived with my girlfriend and me and her two daughters. His mum had access to see him every week for a day and a half."
"At Christmas time, we'd enter into an informal arrangement where she might have him for Christmas morning one year, and he'd be with me for the next one.”
“This particular time was Easter and she had asked me could she take him for three days. She collected him on Easter Sunday and the arrangement was that I'd collect him three days later. And before I was to collect him, I rang and the phone didn't work."
"That was on the Wednesday, and on the Thursday my mother got a call from her to say that she was in Zambia with Ethan."
Zambia has not signed up to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, so Mr Quarry was unable to pursue Ms Daka through the courts.
A hugely difficult journey began, to bring Ethan home. And this month, the Kinsale man decided to take the situation into his own hands.
He flew to Africa to drive 2,500km across the continent to bring his son home.
He bravely undertook an epic trip through South Africa and Zimbabwe before eventually reaching Zambia. He employed a personal investigator to help him search for Ethan, and came up with an ingenious plan to see his son again.
He rang his estranged wife to tell her that the Christmas presents he'd sent Ethan would be at the Irish embassy in Lusaka. Richard had done this before, so Ms Daka did not suspect a thing.
The personal investigator was then able to trace Ethan.
Richard then bravely walked into his son's school and took his son from his class.
Richard headed straight for the Zimbabwean border where he was grilled for three-and-a-half hours, because his son's Irish passport did not have an entry stamp on it.
"I was incredibly nervous. I had researched Zambian law, and there is a crime of child abduction, where the sentence can be for seven years. But there is a way to allow for reasonable defence," he told independent.ie.
Ms Daka had taken Ethan into Zambia on his Zambian passport.
Richard pretended to the authorities that he was due to be reunited with his wife across the border. He told them that she had mistakenly taken Ethan's Zambian passport with her, and they were all due to go home to Ireland together.
"We arrived at the border in our car and parked up just outside the office. We both walked in with our passports - his without stamps and mine with stamps."
"They went to begin stamping it but then they said 'this passport doesn't have the stamps'. I said basically that his mum flew into Zambia with him before me, on his Zambian passport. And they said 'oh she's not supposed to do that'."
"It was the beginning of a three-and-a-half hour ordeal. They wanted to pick my story to pieces."
"I picked up my phone, pretending that I was trying to ring her, but I said that she must be on the plane. They painstakingly wrote a statement on an A4 sheet of paper."
Incredibly, after all the questioning, the border police informed him that it was illegal in Zambia for a person to have dual citizenship. They told him that they would be deported because Richard did not have his son's Zambian passport.
"I put Ethan in the car outside and I put a movie on, on my tablet. And I asked him to stay there. It was really hot and 30 minutes later, there was sweat dripping from his face, but luckily we had lots of water in the car."
"I really lied for Ireland to get through. They said it was illegal to have duality. And they pulled out a piece of paper, and in big bold letters was the word 'deported'."
"After that, there was still another hour of detail checking. I had to clear the vehicle and clear it with Interpol and customs."
"It was nail-biting stuff. It was absolutely nail biting. I just thought, this can all come crashing down."
"There was a huge amount of luck that they didn't check my story out further."
The pair flew home on Saturday to be reunited with their familiy and friends.
"I'm over the moon. I'm absolutely over the moon, and so is he. He's so delighted to be back," Richard said this morning.
"We came back on Saturday morning and it's lovely, everyone here is coming to see him. A couple of times, he's said to me, Dad I'm so glad to be here."
"He didn't have a great time in Zambia. It's taking a while for things to come out but he was quite isolated there. We're such an outdoorsy family here with animals around us, so he found that hard."
The relieved father is keen for life to return to what it was nine months ago.
"The future for us now is really just to get back to life as we knew it. He's going to go back to school and he's already mentioned a few times the fact that he's going to be seeing his two best friends. One is in school and the other lives down the road."
"So it's really just about getting back into the swing of life at the moment. We just want a normal life."