Cyprus Mail

Dad says abducted girl is with him (update 2)

Marie Eleni Grimsrud

An email from the personal account of the father of a four-year-old girl who is suspected of abducting her from outside her kindergarten has been sent to her mother telling her he had the girl and he was spending a week with her, it emerged on Friday.

Torkel Grimsrud, 49, is wanted by police for the abduction of his daughter, Marie Eleni outside her kindergarten on Thursday morning.

Late on Thursday, police arrested four men, three Cypriots and a Syrian, in connection with the abduction. They were remanded in custody for three days.

Police said all four were apprehended in the Nicosia district and are aged 33,39, 44 and 47.

A black Range Rover SUV, similar to the one used by the abductors, was found at the home of the Syrian man and was transported to the police HQ where it was undergoing a forensics examination.

The court heard that the abduction had been organised by one of the suspects for a fee, who gave the job to the second suspect. The kidnapping was executed by the other two, police said.

On Thursday, police issued an arrest warrant for the father after the girl was snatched by two men outside a kindergarten in Dasoupolis.

Investigators told the court on Friday that an email had been sent from Torkel Grimsrud’s personal account the previous day to the mother’s, Eleni Ioannou, personal account, informing her that the girl was well and she was with him somewhere in Cyprus. He said he would be spending a week with her before contacting his lawyers to arrange custody.

Police said Grimsrud had travelled to the north on April 18 and has not left.

Authorities were exploring leads, including children’s clothing and shoes, that looked like the ones the girl wore, found some 300 metres from the kindergarten.

All points of entry and exit, as well as the crossing points to the north, have been alerted to be on the lookout.

Following the incident on Thursday, Norwegian daily Aftenposten quoted the father’s lawyer as saying that his client was reunited with his daughter and they were doing well.

Angelides said they were aware of this report, but it was as yet unconfirmed.

The girl was taken outside the school in Dasoupolis at around 8am.

Police said two individuals wearing hoods snatched the girl who had just been dropped off by her mother. She was bundled in a black Range Rover, which sped off.

A sea, air, and land operation was underway to locate the kidnappers, and a crisis centre has been set up and a number of officers who were off were called in to assist with the operation.

The couple were married in 2012 through a civil procedure and the girl was born in Norway in 2013.

The couple never lived together permanently and they had joint custody of the child.

But there was a rift in 2015 when the dad decided to keep the girl in Norway. His requests were rejected by courts in the Scandinavian country because the girl’s permanent home was in Cyprus.

The mother’s lawyer, Larris Vrahimis said the child had always lived in Cyprus after her birth. He told Sigma television that the father was even thinking of transferring his business to Cyprus but that didn’t happen.

Marie Eleni spend time in Norway with him and the father paid frequent visits, he said.

However, in October, 2015, during a brief visit, he announced to the mother that he was keeping the child in Norway and took away her passport.

Ioannou reported the case to police in Cyprus and sought a Cypriot court order for the child’s return. Marie Eleni returned to Cyprus and has been living with her mother since.

The father had initiated several legal proceedings in a bid to win custody but Norwegian courts rejected him, pointing out they had no jurisdiction, Vrahimis said.

“There is no doubt that the position of the Norwegian authorities is that the child lived in Cyprus and Cypriot courts had jurisdiction,” he added. “Every claim made by the father has been proven wrong.”

Vrahimis said following the case in 2015 and the 2016 attempt there was always concern.

“There was always fear that he would repeat it. Eventually he did.”

Vrahimis said they tried but failed to contact the father’s lawyer after he was quoted by Norwegian media as saying the girl was with Grimsrud.

“We have no way of knowing if the news is true,” he said.

The Cypriot foreign ministry said it was in contact with the Norwegian foreign ministry in relation with the abduction.

Quoting a ministry source, the Cyprus News Agency said they had asked for the Norwegians’ assistance in the case but there was nothing to announce so far.

“We acted immediately and we are monitoring the issue,” the source said.


Foiled attempt

In February 2016, police averted what they believed was a concrete plan to kidnap the girl then aged three, after they arrested three men from Norway who were crossing from the north.

The three, aged 29, 40 and 60 were detained while crossing Ayios Dhometios checkpoint in Nicosia from northern Cyprus to the Republic, after police received a tip-of as to their plan.

Enough evidence was found on them to convince the court that there seemed to be a concrete plan in place to kidnap the girl. Nicosia district court remanded them for three days to help police investigations.

But police could not find enough evidence to charge the men who were eventually deported.

Only this week, the issue of actions that needed to be taken to deal with the growing problem of children from mixed marriages being abducted and taken abroad was discussed at the House human rights committee.

In 2016 there were 29 such cases compared with 24 in 2015, with most of the children being taken to Middle Eastern countries via the north.

“Parents from third countries, mainly Arabs, but also from the former Eastern bloc, do not cooperate, as their relevant services do not cooperate,” Disy MP Mariella Aristidou told the House during a session that was attended by some of the Cypriot parents of abducted children.” As a result, the problem is growing, and in almost all cases it is impossible to find a solution,” she added.

Aristidou said ways need to be found to deal with the situation and the House should give the relevant services powers to stop the abductions. Akel MP Skevi Koutra Koukouma said the problem has been under discussion for more than three years and that the foreign ministry, which has been responsible for dealing with the problem of the abductions since 2014 ‘has done nothing’. Some of the children are now in countries where wars are raging, according to Koukouma.

Chrystalla Panayiotou, a mother of two abducted children, said that the government and the relevant authorities are not cooperating with each other, which makes it impossible for parents to get their children back.  She asked for the government to finally set up the dedicated committee that was supposed to have been established four years ago.

Panayiotou told the committee she has had no information for the past year about her children who were taken by her Syrian husband when they were 18 months and 4.5 years old. They are now 5 and 9 years old.

“Right now, I do not know where my kids are. I am complaining about the Cypriot government. I am a Cypriot citizen and no one supports me,” she concluded.

Few abducted children are reunited with their Cypriot parents. It is easier to process cases when dealing with countries that have signed The Hague Convention, which includes all EU member states. Countries that are not part of the convention, such as Middle Eastern countries, do not legally have to cooperate and fall under the responsibility of the foreign ministry, which uses diplomatic means to try to resolve the disputes. In practice, this makes it very difficult for the children to be returned.

Anyone with information should contact the police hotline 1460, 112, 22802331, or Nicosia CID.

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