A Cypriot man who engaged a special forces soldier working to recover abducted children is the subject of an ITV documentary that shows how he got his little girl back in a dramatic undercover operation in Poland and brought her back to Cyprus to be reunited with her older sister.
Craig Michael, 35, originally from north London, was married to a Polish woman with whom he had two daughters but his wife fled to Poland with the younger daughter Crystal when she was a baby in 2011, leaving the older girl Castalia, then 4, behind with her father and grandfather.
Michael spent the next two and a half years and thousands of euros going through the Polish courts, winning the right to take Crystal home to Cyprus. But his wife Marta Swinarska refused to comply with the court orders.
In early 2014 he resorted to contacting an organisation that recovers abducted children when one parent has a court order that is not being complied with, run by special forces operator Adam Whittington, the founder of Child Abduction Recovery International.
The entire operation was filmed for the ITV documentary ‘Abduction’. It shows how Michael and Whittington staked out the home of Crystal’s grandparents in Poland and how they had to wait 12 days for a chance to grab her from outside the house.
According to the documentary, the Cyprus embassy in Vienna had already prepared an emergency passport for the child and the trio drove there from Poland through the Czech Republic after Michael and Whittington had grabbed Crystal from outside her grandparents’ house. Whittington used pepper spray to distract the girl’s grandfather while Michael nabbed her. From there Michael flew back to Cyprus to reunite his girls.
Speaking on the documentary before he had recovered his daughter he said: “It’s heartbreaking. I am numbed from it all.”
The documentary said both parents wanted the girls to be together but the father wanted them in Cyprus and the mother in Poland. Michael moved from London to Cyprus in 2005. “I haven’t seen Crystal walk or talk,” Michael said of not having his daughter in his life since she was a baby. “I have a lot to catch up on,” he said.
In a later interview with the Daily Mirror, he said what he had done was extreme “but the court and the Hague Convention had let me down”.
According to the paper, Michael’s ordeal began in October 2011 when Swinarska told him she had to return to Poland because her grandfather had died. He said he would look after the children while she was away but she wanted to take them with her.
Shortly after, she disappeared with the baby. Michael told the paper she also tried to take Castalia a week later but the girl’s school wouldn’t allow it and contacted her father.
Swinarska claimed she had taken her daughter because her partner misused drugs and alcohol and was both physically and mentally abusive to her and the children. He denies the allegations, the paper said.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” Michael told the Daily Mirror. ‘She made up all sorts of things to try to put me in a bad light but the judge could see through her lies.’
The judge found no evidence as to the allegations and issued a court order stating the little girl be returned to her father, it added.
It said that in May this year Swinarska pleaded guilty to child abduction and was given an 18-month suspended sentence but she continues to fight for custody.