Father accused of love-tug abduction

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A man abducted his five-year-old daughter and took her to the United States, sparking a three-year hunt, after his wife began an affair with a younger man, a court was told yesterday.

Emma Hallam, who is now eight, was taken to Florida by her father Martin, 35, and his parents after her mother, Michelle, left home to be with Russell Oliver, then 19. Leeds magistrates were told that Emma was abducted by Mr Hallam in May 1992 after he told his wife that he was taking their daughter on a five-day camping trip.

Mr Hallam, his parents Bertina and George Don, and Emma travelled around America until they were caught last week. Mr Hallam and his parents returned to the United Kingdom at the weekend.

Mark Burns, defending Mr Hallam and Mrs Don, 63, who are both charged with abduction on 27 May 1992, successfully applied for reporting restrictions to be lifted.

Mr Burns said that before Christmas 1991 Mr Hallam believed he had a perfect life with his wife and child. "He was very close to his daughter, more so than most fathers because he worked nights and spent days at home with her.

"Because Michelle worked, a lot of day-to-day care was done by Mrs Don and Emma became extremely close to her."

Mr Hallam's happiness was shattered when he discovered his wife was having an affair with Mr Oliver, Mr Burns told the court. "He could see his life crumbling about him, his plans for the future were destroyed," Mr Burns told the court.

Mr Hallam asked his wife to leave their house and he initially looked after Emma.

But Mrs Hallam, a Ministry of Agriculture scientist, later interrupted a lesson at Emma's school and took her home with her, the court was told.

Mr Burns said Mr Hallam became concerned when he overheard Mr Oliver and Mrs Hallam talking about Emma's behavioural difficulties. He allegedly heard Mr Oliver say "he would rule her with a rod of iron". Emma would beg her father and Mrs Don not to take her back to her mother and Mr Oliver after day-trips, the court was told. "She just couldn't develop a relationship with Russell Oliver. She became extremely distressed as a result of that," said Mr Burns.

He denied that Emma had lived like a fugitive during her three years in America, saying she had enjoyed dancing classes, home schooling and had met friends at a church.

The magistrates granted Mrs Don, of Leeds, West Yorkshire, unconditional bail until 18 September. Mr Hallam was granted conditional bail with a surety of pounds 3,000 from his cousin Jane Murphy. He will live with her in Cross Gates, Leeds.

Following their arrest last week, Mr Don was questioned by police but released without charge.