Wednesday 28 September 2016

Toddler at centre of UK 'tug of love' back with his father after mum surrenders to police

Claire Hayhurst

Published 13/06/2015 | 14:45

Rebecca Minnock and her three-year-old son Ethan Credit: Avon & Somerset Police/PA Wire
Rebecca Minnock and her three-year-old son Ethan Credit: Avon & Somerset Police/PA Wire

A three-year-old boy who was missing with his mother for more than two weeks is now "safely back" in the care of his father.

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Rebecca Minnock, 35, went on the run from her home in Highbridge, Somerset, with Ethan for 17 days after a court ruled that her son should live with his father, Roger Williams.

The mother-of-one was in the Oxford area when she made contact with Avon and Somerset Police yesterday evening.

Read more here: Mother of mum-on run with son (3) jailed after lying about toddler's disappearance  

Both Miss Minnock and Ethan were found "safe and well" and police said they would now receive "the support they need".

This morning, Mr Williams said: "Ethan is safely back in my care now."

A police spokesman said no arrests had been made following the return of mother and son.

"This will be a matter for the family courts now," the spokesman added.

Read more here: On-the-run mother in custody battle fled with son (3) as she felt 'trapped'  

Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, the High Court judge dealing with the case, confirmed there will be a hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday.

Miss Minnock spoke to the 'Daily Mail' before handing herself in, telling the paper: "I feel that my time has run out now."

She said her son believed he had been on holiday because they had been having "normal, fun times together", such as going swimming and visiting parks.

"My only regret would be the trouble that my family have gotten into, all the police efforts and time I've wasted," Miss Minnock told the newspaper.

"Obviously everyone's been concerned but we've both been absolutely fine.

"He's been safe and happy and I don't have any regrets because I've spent so much more time with him than I would've been able to."

Miss Minnock said she decided to come forward to police after Ethan asked to see family members.

She was also aware that her mother, Louise Minnock, and mother's boyfriend, Andrew Butt, were jailed for contempt of court at Bristol Crown Court.

Judge Wildblood jailed Minnock for 10 days and Butt for 28 days after they admitted lying about the toddler's disappearance.

Miss Minnock said it was "not fair to Ethan to keep running with him" and that her son "needs to go home, he needs his routine back".

"It's been extremely difficult, I've considered it every day since we've gone," she told the newspaper.

"What's made my mind up, Ethan has been asking to see my family, he's been asking to go to his bed back home."

Miss Minnock fled Highbridge on the day she was due to hand her child over to his father following a court order.

She was expected to attend the family court in Bristol at 9am but instead fled with Ethan in Butt's black Ford Focus.

CCTV images show Miss Minnock withdrawing £300 from a cash machine at the Asda store in Highbridge at 8.17am before getting into the car.

Butt, a long-distance lorry driver, drove the mother and son to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, where members of her family live.

"She said 'I have no choice'," Butt told Bristol Crown Court during yesterday's sentencing hearing.

Judge Wildblood jailed Minnock, 52, and Butt, 56, for lying to police and the courts, withholding "crucial" information which would lead to Ethan.

The toddler, who was born on January 25 2012, has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013.

A custody battle began the following month.

During a hearing on May 27 this year, a judge said Ethan should live with Mr Williams and have supervised contact with his mother.

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