Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Father gets 4 years for abduction

(First Edition)

A MAN who bound and gagged his daughter's mother before fleeing with the child to the United States was jailed for four years at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Bernard Downes, 30, a social worker, hired a female accomplice to help him defy a court order and gain custody of his three-year-old daughter, Judge Brian Smedley was told. They posed as police officers to trick their way into the child's home and trussed up her mother.

The judge said it was 'one of the most extraordinary cases' he had heard and told Downes, who has a psychology degree and a PhD in social studies: 'You deliberately, with your education, skill and contacts, set out to abduct your daughter and in the course of that treated her mother appallingly.'

Peter Walsh, for the prosecution, said handcuffs were attached to the woman's hands and ankles, and ropes forced her into an agonising arched-back position.

Two months earlier, a High Court judge had denied Downes access to the child after hearing about his violence.

The woman - a psychologist - cannot be named to protect her daughter. She and her daughter were reunited after Downes was arrested in Philadelphia.

He admitted abduction and false imprisonment, but his denial of kidnapping was accepted. Downes was living in Homerton, east London, at the time.

Mirza Rashid, for Downes, said that he acted out of desperation. The other bogus police officer, Karen Counsel, 27, had been given an 18-month suspended sentence last April.