International Child abduction: Tug of love mother must fly to court in Tenerife to fight for daughter, 5, after being accused of abducting her
18th September 2009
A British mother must fly to Tenerife to face a court after her estranged Spanish boyfriend accused her of abducting their daughter.
The shocking order came out of the blue eight months after Marina Eldridge returned from her last stay on the island.
Miss Eldridge, 32, and five-year-old Lorena must return to the holiday island next week or face being extradited.
Lorena was born in Britain following a relationship of less than a year between Miss Eldridge and barman Samuel Diaz.
Miss Eldridge, a teacher, insists that Mr Diaz later encouraged her to return to Britain because Lorena has a serious heart condition and her family was in a better position to support her.
She claims he saw little of his child during several long stays in the Canaries by her mother.
In July, police arrived at her home in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and confiscated her passport. It will only be returned when she boards her flight on Thursday.
'Police will be waiting for us at the other end and it's going to be very traumatising for Lorena - especially with her medical condition,' she said.
'I just didn't realise this could happen to a British citizen who has a British-born child. It's outrageous.'
Once in Tenerife she will be interviewed by the Spanish authorities and a civil court will decide who has full custody of Lorena.
Her daughter suffers from a heart abnormality - supraventricular tachycardia - that makes it beat faster, meaning she has regular hospital check-ups and medication.
Miss Eldridge insisted she had never stopped Mr Diaz - who now lives with a Spanish lawyer - from seeing his daughter and added: 'He never called during the eight months that I've been away.
'He was the one who told me to return here because he could not support me out there.'
Miss Eldridge must return because she had lived with her daughter in Tenerife for longer than 12 months and under Spanish law she needed to apply for official leave to take Lorena - as the offspring of a Spaniard - out of the country.
Under the Hague Convention, the UK is obliged make sure British citizens comply with demands from courts in other EU countries.
British family law experts say that if a Spanish woman had returned with her child to her own country, the UK authorities would not apply for her to return for a custody hearing.
Dennis May, solicitor at the Children's Legal Centre, said: 'This seems very unjust but unfortunately the Hague Convention can be used in this case.
'The judgment is very harsh. Her partner has the power to drag the pair back to face these charges.'
Miss Eldridge met barman Mr Diaz in Tenerife in 2002 while she was working as an English teacher. They moved in together but split up the following year and, learning she was pregnant, Miss Eldridge returned to her mother's home in Stevenage in July 2003.
Lorena was born in December 2003 and Mr Diaz came to Britain for a month to see her. Miss Eldridge spent three further periods in Tenerife during 2004, 2006 and 2007, before returning to Stevenage in December last year.
In total she spent fewer than 20 months on the island after Lorena was born, but the final spell lasted 15 months.
During much of that last stay, Mr Diaz lived on neighbouring La Palma. He admits he did not see his daughter while she was nearby for 'many months'.
Mr Diaz, 29, said from Tenerife: 'I want Lorena to remain near me. I didn't want to go to a court in England as it's not my country.'