A mother has been in hiding with her three-year-old son after a judge ruled that the boy should be handed over to his father.
Rebecca Minnock, 35, vanished with her son Ethan two weeks ago, shortly after a court ordered that he should live with father Roger Williams and not at her home in Highbridge, Somerset.
In a highly unusual step, Judge Stephen Wildblood QC ruled the media should be able to report the full facts of the case in a bid to help track them down.
Speaking at Bristol Crown Court, he was “deeply suspicious” of claims by Ms Minnock’s family that they did not know her whereabouts, warning the longer they remained missing, the worse the situation will be once they are found.
Ms Minnock's mother Louise, brother Marvin Shaw and sister Limmie Shaw were arrested on Sunday. They are accused of withholding information that would lead to the mother and son's location, a claim which they deny.
Judge Wildblood said they would face charges including contempt of court and perjury if they were not “candid” in what they knew about Ethan and his mother.
However, in a Facebook post aimed at Mr Williams, Mr Shaw wrote: “She's not missing. I know where they both are. And there (sic) both very safe now and just to let you know because I know you are reading this.”
He later insisted the message was meant to show his anger towards Mr Williams and denied knowing the whereabouts of his relatives.
Her family have also launched a campaign, claiming Ms Minnock has been treated unfairly and was “let down” by social services, police and the courts during the custody battle.
Ethan, who was born in January 2012, has always lived with his mother since his parents separated the following February.
His father applied for contact a month later and a magistrate ordered that Mr Williams should be allowed contact.
This arrangement broke down, and in the 18 months since Ms Minnock made a number of allegations against her former partner, Bristol Crown Court heard.
These were rejected by a district judge this February, who found they had been “fabricated” in order to deliberately “frustrate contact” between Ethan and his father.
After that hearing, Ethan began spending four nights a week with Mr Williams and three with his mother.
Supported by a social worker and guardian, a child psychiatrist then recommended Ethan should live with his father and have supervised contact with his mother.
A hearing was scheduled to take place on 27 May, but Ms Minnock has not been seen since 8.17am that morning, when she was spotted at the Asda in Highbridge withdrawing cash.
She was then driven away in a black Ford Focus, headed in the direction of Cheltenham - where members of her family live - but she has not been seen since.
Anyone with any information on their whereabouts is urged to call Avon and Somerset Police on 101.
Ms Minnock is described as white, 5ft 3ins tall and with dark, wavy hair. Ethan has blond hair and blue eyes.Reuse content