Father faces prison for snatching his son, 12: Boy reunited with mother after businessman returns to England to prevent seizure of pounds 2m assets

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PETER MALKIN, the wealthy businessman who snatched his son and took him to Egypt, faces a possible prison sentence today after returning to Britain and handing over the boy.

Oliver Malkin, 12, was reunited last night with his mother in France where he was seized as he got off a school bus on 8 November, the fourth time he had been snatched by his obsessed father.

The bitterness of the dispute between Mr Malkin and his ex-wife Elisa Pridmore was evident after he returned to Britain yesterday to avoid having his assets, worth pounds 2m, seized by the High Court.

'My boy was pulled away from me just now in tears, I think it is despicable,' he shouted as he and his partner, Audrey Donnelly, were arrested by a court official, accompanied by police, as they stepped off their flight at Heathrow airport.

Mr Malkin - who owns a hotel in Brixham, Devon, and a nightclub near Canterbury, Kent - and Mrs Donnelly, 45, were held in custody overnight and will appear at the High Court this morning.

Last November, a High Court judge issued a warrant for Mr Malkin's arrest for breaching a court order not to remove Oliver from the care of his ex-wife. He and Mrs Donnelly were ordered to return the boy.

Peter Harris, the Official Solicitor, who represents Oliver in court, said that Mr Malkin and Mrs Donnelly had been served with a notice yesterday 'to show cause why they should not be committed to prison for contempt of court'.

Before he left Egypt yesterday morning Mr Malkin, who had spent several weeks in the resort of Hurghada with Mrs Donnelly and Oliver, said: 'By the sounds of it I will be going into prison for what may be a long time.'

Oliver told reporters that he had telephoned his father to come and take him away and added: 'I can't see why he should go to jail.'

Tony Malkin, Mr Malkin's brother, said: 'I think it is most unfair. He is being arrested because he loves his son. He has been totally frustrated by the system.'

After returning to England yesterday, Oliver flew on to France for the reunion with his mother, who is suffering from breast cancer, and his stepfather Andrew Pridmore. They moved to Britanny to get away from Mr Malkin.

Mr Harris said: 'It is clearly very important for Oliver's welfare that he be allowed to resume a normal family life with his mother in France and that they should be allowed to do so in peace.'

In 1987, Mr Malkin took his son away for six months after picking him up from school in England. Later, Mrs Pridmore was granted sole custody and his father denied access. In 1990, Oliver was abducted in an ambush near the Pridmore's new home in France and not returned for five months. The following year four masked people snatched the boy again and it was 19 months before he was found.

A judge supported a boy's bid to 'divorce' his parents when he ruled that Dean Dwyer, 13, could live with his grandparents. The decision by Judge John Wilson at Northampton County Court, sitting as a High Court on Tuesday, followed a custody dispute between his mother in Northampton and father in Reading.

Under new legislation governing children, which came into effect in 1991, he was allowed legal representation to get a residence order to live with his grandparents. The boy said: 'I was torn between my mum and my dad. But now I feel happy because I don't have to keep moving.' His father contested the case but his mother, Sharon Taylor, gave it her backing.

The boy's parents separated in 1989 and he moved with his mother, brother Shawn and sister Katie from Reading to Northampton, but he did not get on with his mother's new partner. For much of last year he was look after by his grandparents, Margaret and John Eagle, who also live in Northampton.

(Photograph omitted)