The search for a Saanich, B.C., woman accused of parental abduction came to an unusual end this week when she was arrested after allegedly trying to sneak into the U.K. using a dinghy.
Lauren Etchells is alleged to have left Canada with her now-four-year-old daughter Kaydance, her new partner and their newborn son Marcus in 2016 defying a court order not to leave Vancouver Island.
At the time, Etchells had recently separated from her wife Tasha Brown, Kaydance’s other mother, according to Saanich police. Etchells had custody of the child, but Brown had visitation rights and was working towards joint custody, police said.
WATCH: 4-year old Saanich girl missing for 3 years located in U.K.
When Etchells, a dual Canadian-British citizen, left the country — allegedly after fraudulently obtaining travel documents — Brown went to Saanich police, who got in touch with other international policing agencies.
Investigations by police and Brown herself revealed that Etchells and the family had apparently travelled from Canada to England and then on to France, the Netherlands, the Middle East and possibly Spain and Portugal, said Saanich police.
This prompted an Interpol Red Notice, which flagged Etchells as internationally wanted.
Saanich police said that notice paid off on Canada Day when Etchells, Kaydance, Marcus and Etchells’ parents were detained on the island of Jersey, a British Crown dependency, about 22 kilometres off the French coast.
WATCH: Saanich police investigating alleged parental abduction
According to police, the family was spotted landing a four-metre inflatable dinghy on the island. When they were questioned by local authorities, they claimed they were holidaying in France but had “decided to pop over for a visit,” said Saanich police.
Investigators felt the family’s story didn’t add up — and when they learned who the family was, officials suspected they were trying to make their way into the U.K. through Jersey in order to avoid British passport controls, police said.
Etchells and her two parents were arrested for alleged immigration and child neglect offences, police said. The trio pleaded guilty, and Etchells remains in custody on an arrest warrant for extradition to Canada.
“We are extremely pleased to report that four-year-old Kaydance has been located and is in the care of the appropriate authorities in Jersey,” said Saanich police Sgt. Julie Fast in a media release.
“She is in good health, is happy and appears to have been well cared for.”
WATCH: ‘Abduction is just a word to anyone who hasn’t experienced it’ — B.C. mom pleads for return of daughter
The two children have been placed in foster care while officials work through the complex international investigation, which police said could take some time.
Brown also released a statement, thanking officials and saying she is “extremely grateful” her daughter is in good health.
“I am celebrating today. Kaydance is alive, and we know where she is! But I can’t celebrate 100 per cent yet. Not until Kaydance is back in Canada,” she said.
“It is for this reason that I am spending today with my lawyer and the various other agencies involved in bringing Kaydance home safely and…SOON!”
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