The mother of a five-year-old girl who was ‘kidnapped’ while on holiday in the US by the partner she met on a co-parenting website has revealed her daughter is ‘trapped in hotels’.
The fugitive father was this week given one final chance to return the girl – or else faces an immediate prison term.
Natalie Kennedy was 36 and worried about her body clock when she met Philip Thomas, who was 11 years older than her, on an unregulated co-parenting website.
Ms Kennedy, now 43, said IT consultant Thomas, 54, had defied court orders by refusing to return their daughter Alice to the UK, leaving her ‘heartbroken and in despair’.
She has not seen her daughter for more than four months since he took her on a two-week holiday to the States, following a long-running dispute over access arrangements for him to see her.
Miss Kennedy said Mr Thomas had allowed her to have a handful of Zoom conversations with their daughter who seemed ‘unhappy’ being in Dubai with him
Miss Kennedy has not seen her daughter for more than four months since he took her on a two-week holiday to the United States
Miss Kennedy said IT consultant Philip Thomas, 54, defied court orders by refusing to return their daughter Alice to the UK, leaving her ‘heartbroken and in despair’
Mr Thomas broke a court agreement by not returning Alice on August 6, to her mother’s home in Gorleston-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
He then flew with Alice from Florida to Dubai on August 21, and is believed to have been with her ever since in the United Arab Emirates city state.
Family Court judges have treated the case as ‘child abduction’ and issued four separate orders for Mr Thomas to bring the youngster home – which have been ignored despite the threat of a fine, imprisonment or seizure of assets if he fails to comply.
Miss Kennedy previously claimed Thomas says he has not complied as he is ‘scared’ about the consequences of returning and claims his rights as a father have not been properly taken into account.
Thomas has set up his own website called FairParentingUK and an associate podcast, which he uses to campaign for reforms to the UK’s family courts and what he sees as injustices in the system.
The High Court’s family division heard that Thomas’s whereabouts are not known.
She told The Times: ‘Alice is just trapped in hotel rooms. When I speak with her, I know she wants to come home but she is putting on a brave face.
Miss Kennedy of Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, is battling to get her daughter Alice home from Dubai
Mr Thomas broke a court agreement by not returning Alice on August 6 to her mother’s home in Gorleston-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Miss Kennedy last saw her daughter when she dropped her off at school on the last day of term on July 21 this year, allowing Alice’s father to pick her up
Miss Kennedy said she had her daughter with Mr Thomas after meeting him on an unregulated co-parenting website which aims to match people who want to share the upbringing of a child
Single mother Natalie Kennedy, 43, is pictured with her daughter Alice during happier times
She has not seen her daughter since Thomas took Alice on a two-week holiday to the United States
‘Philip is trying to blackmail [me] into giving into his demands. He is using Alice as a way to get what he wants.’
Thomas seemed to show little emotion when he appeared via video link as Mr Justice Cusworth said: ‘Playing with Alice as a pawn is not in her best interests’ and ‘It is time now to bring Alice back to this country’.
Thomas was given a one-year jail sentence suspended until March 7 so that he can have one last chance to come back to the UK.
The judge added: ‘We need to arrange for him to come to this country with Alice soon — for his sake, for her sake and for the mother’s sake. He cannot live on the run with Alice for ever.’
Representing Thomas, Edward Bennett told the court: ‘His position is very clear. He is prepared to make a return in March if there is progress during mediation.’