Mother defies court to take son into hiding: Adam Sage looks at the anguish faced by thousands of parents and finds that a charity seeking to reunite families is threatened by a cash crisis

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The Independent Online
JANET STRACHAN is desperate, so much so that for the first time in her life, she has decided to break the law and go into hiding with her six-year-old son, Neil Bickford.

Last May, the Court of Appeal ruled that, under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, Ms Strachan should take Neil back to Canada, where her husband still lives and where the courts will make a final decision about their future.

But it is a return journey she is loath to make. She had lived in Canada for 12 years, but left following the acrimonious break-up of her marriage and a period of unemployment, when she says she was forced to rely on the Salvation Army.

'I have nobody over there any more. It would be like going back to the lion's den,' Ms Strachan said. The ruling was all the more difficult for her to accept as she had settled well in Britain since she moved back last year. She has bought a house, found a job with the social services department of Wirral Borough Council on Merseyside, and sent Neil to school.

On the day that she was meant to board a plane for Canada, Ms Strachan decided that she could not face returning. Instead, she left Merseyside to go into hiding with her son, even withholding the details of her whereabouts from her parents.

'The judges have given me no choice,' Ms Strachan said. 'I cannot return. But if I don't return, I break the law.

'I don't have anybody there any more. The only person I can stay with is my ex-husband and his mistress.'

Distraught and alone, she has no money, no contact with her family and little hope for the future. She is bitter at what she says is the court's failure to take her son's wishes in account. 'He has stated time and again to psychologists, doctors and teachers that he doesn't want to go back. Nobody worries about him.'

(Photograph omitted)