A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD girl who was abducted by her mother three years ago has been reunited with her father after an international search traced them to Canada.
Pearl Gavaghan Da Massa disappeared after her father, Henry Da Massa, dropped her at her nursery in Manchester in December 2008.
Police believe that Pearl, who was four at the time, was taken by her mother first to Mexico, and then the United States, before she was found in Montreal, eastern Canada, on 16 September.
After spending the last three years without attending school or seeing a doctor, Pearl was reunited with her father last week, before the pair flew home to Manchester.
Mr Da Massa, an IT consultant, said he was “elated” to see his daughter again.
“It was only when we got on the plane that I really knew we were coming home,” he said. “Pearl was told she didn't have a father. We've had to go back to where we were three years ago and get used to each other again. She's started to remember her old bedroom.”
The reunion was the culmination of a three year transatlantic search for the missing girl.
A $10,000 reward was offered to help trace Pearl. Hopes were raised last year when she was reported to have been seen in the Canadian city of Toronto, where Mr Da Massa has been living for the past 18 months.
Police in the city believed Pearl and her mother were living in an “alternative community” in the area but they were finally found when officers were called to an incident 300 miles away in Montreal.
Mr Da Massa, an IT consultant, said his daughter had become a “video game-playing fan of Scandinavian pop princess Robyn” who now speaks with a “yeeha accent”.
“But she was the same kid with the same spark, the same smile, the same kind of behaviours and the same mannerisms that had made her a kid destined for great things.”
Pearl’s mother, Helen Gavaghan, 34, is facing extradition to Britain after the High Court ruled in 2009 that she had removed her daughter from the country illegally.
Mr Da Massa met Ms Gavaghan while she was working at Matt And Phred's jazz club in the Northern Quarter in 2003. Pearl was born the following year but the couple separated.
They were granted joint custody of their daughter a few weeks before Ms Gavaghan and Pearl disappeared.
Documents found at Ms Gavaghan’s home in Blackpool shortly after the pair vanished included a forged court order, falsely indicating that she had sole custody of her daughter.
Before leaving the country, Ms Gavaghan had changed her name to “Meta International”. Police believed she had also adopted other alternative identities for herself and Pearl over the past three years.
Mr Da Massa praised the police, the Canadian authorities and the response from the public for helping to reunite him with his daughter.
“This was not about a dad who misses his kid, or a mother who wants sole custody,” he said. “This is about a kid who has had a crazy life and getting her back to a safe place with relative security.”
The case is one of the most high profile international family abductions since that of Molly Campbell, a 12-year-old schoolgirl who was removed illegally from her mother's home in the Western Isles to live with her father in Pakistan.