Calgary police confirm a Canada-wide arrest warrant related to child abduction has been issued for the grandparents of a seven-year-old girl as her father desperately tries to find her.
Justin Coutts told Global News he last saw his daughter on July 2, before she headed off on holidays with her maternal grandparents.
They were supposed to be headed to Ontario for nine days, but Coutts said they later contacted him to tell him they were extending the visit. He said that was when he called police.
“There’s still no leads to where they are currently,” he said.
Coutts said he later received information they had travelled to Turkey and then possibly to Egypt where Mostafa Hassan, the girl’s grandfather, possesses citizenship — on what he said was fake ID.
“We have confirmed they have forged my signature and a fraudulent application for a passport has been put through and was granted,” he said.
Coutts has primary custody of Teaghan, but a court ruled her grandparents Louanne Bass-Hassan and Mostafa Hassan are allowed time with her.
Teaghan’s mother died when she was just a few months old. What ensued after that, according to Coutts, was an often bitter custody battle. But he said he never imagined this would have happened to his beautiful, caring and energetic young girl.
“I’m such a lucky father to have a daughter like Teaghan,” he said tearfully. “She’s lost so many people already — she doesn’t deserve this.”
Coutts said he has been working with Calgary police, the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies to try and communicate with officials in both Turkey or Egypt. However, he has not had any luck so far.
“I’ve been told there’s nothing much that they can do local,” he said. “It’s pretty much an international matter.”
Noted criminologist Kelly Sundberg isn’t surprised.
“These are tragic stories that are happening more often,” he told Global News.
Sundberg is an associate professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, but for more than 14 years he worked for the government of Canada in various border security, policy development and advisory roles. During that time he assisted in the location of three abducted children.
He said international child abduction cases are tough to crack.
“The challenge really begins when the Calgary police have to co-ordinate with the RCMP, who then in turn have to co-ordinate with the federal police of the country where the child’s at,” Sundberg said.
He added that when you add in the laws of any specific country, as well as whether they have any kind of agreement or treaty with Canada, the complications intensify.
“This is an incredibly complex, heartbreaking and convoluted process and it can take a long time to find resolution, if ever.” he said.
“Some of these cases we’ve seen it happen that it is not until the child becomes age of majority, and can in fact come back on their own, that there’s some resolution.”
Coutts said he is not anywhere near ready to give up. He has launched a social media campaign entitled #BringTeaghanHome. It has more than 1,000 members who have shared it locally, nationally and internationally.
A GoFundMe page has also been created to help cover any of the costs.
Calgary police told Global News while it is “actively investigating,” it is early on in the investigation and there are currently no updates.
The federal government issued a statement on the matter.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of reports that a Canadian child has been abducted and held abroad,” the statement reads.
“Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance.”
The statement noted that due to the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.