AN IRISH father deliberately kept diplomats in the dark about his plan to rescue his snatched son from Africa.
Richard Quarry set out on a mission to get his son Ethan (7) back from the boy's Zambian mother, Elizabeth Daka, who snatched him last April.
He hatched the plan after all legal efforts had failed.
"I kept them (diplomats) in the dark. They knew absolutely nothing about my plan. The first they knew about it was when I was 30 minutes from the border on the way out," he said.
Richard admitted "my heart was in my mouth" when he noticed a form at a Zambian border crossing as he tried to get Ethan safely into Zimbabwe.
"I read 'prohibited' on the form as it was lying upside down. I started to panic. But I didn't realise that the form meant I was prohibited from returning to Zambia not prohibited from leaving," he said.
"I pretended I forgot my phone and put Ethan in the car. I was afraid the whole thing was going to fall apart."
Richard spent nine months fighting to get Ethan home.
"It was just something that I didn't see coming," he said.
"Ethan lived with my girlfriend and I and her two daughters. His mum had access to see him every week. We had entered into an informal arrangement where she might have him for Christmas morning one year and he would be with me for the next.
"This time it was Easter and she asked if she could take him. She collected him and the arrangement was that I would collect him three days later. Before I was to collect him, I rang and the phone didn't work. That was on Wednesday. On 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 Richard could not pursue Ms Daka through the courts.
So he flew to Africa, drove across the continent and hired a personal investigator.
He rang his estranged wife, who worked at a bar in Lusaka, to tell her that Ethan's Christmas presents could be collected at the Irish embassy. The investigator was then able to confirm when Ethan was alone, allowing Richard to take him from his school.
He drove to the border knowing that the hunt for him would focus on Lusaka Airport. He was grilled at the border for over three hours because his son's Irish passport lacked an entry stamp.
He said: "I told them as much as I could, that the stamps were on the Zambian passport because the Irish passport was in the luggage. I couldn't believe it when they waved us through and I drove into Zimbabwe."