I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cycling To Find his Missing Son

Good Luck Ken.

DAY after day this week, Ken Thompson will jump on his trusty bicycle and pedal hundreds of miles past some of the most stunning scenery in Britain.

But from dawn until dusk there is only one beautiful image that will consume his thoughts - the face of the cherished son he has travelled thousands of miles to find.

Once upon a time, keen cyclist Ken delighted in pulling three-year-old Andrew behind him in a little carriage. In fact, he can still recall the magical sound of the little boy's laughter as the pair tripped over bumps in the road and waved to smiling passers-by.
Last chance ... Ken on bike with Andrew's favourite toy

Now there is only a trail of sadness behind Ken after his partner Melinda Thompson (nee Stratton), a former nurse, cruelly snatched Andrew from the family home in Sydney, Australia, on 24 April 2008 and fled the country. Her actions have made her an international fugitive wanted in 200 countries but to date, police efforts and Interpol alerts have failed to find her.

Ken, 56, can wait no longer. Melinda, 48, once worked in London and there is a possibility she has brought Andrew to the UK so Ken is determined to take his crusade to every corner of the country - by bike.

He says: "I will never stop cycling until I find my son. Being apart from him has almost broken me but even if I have to search for him forever, I will do it. All it takes is one person who knows where Andrew is to see his picture on my bike or read our story. I had to think of something that would attract attention and I came up with the idea of a bike ride.

"When I have cycled through the UK, I will take my search through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The alternative is to give up and that's unthinkable."

Ken is cycling with Andrew's favourite toy - a cuddly firefighter called Bernie Cinders. He explains: "Melinda took all Andrew's toys when she abducted him except this because I bought it for him. Normally, it lies in Andrew's bed that is left untouched in our house but Bernie is with me on this trip attached to the bike. If, by a miracle, Andrew catches a glimpse of my journey, he will hopefully recognise Bernie."

Ken's relationship with Melinda had a fairytale beginning but an insecure and jealous streak soon emerged in his new girlfriend.
Ken's ex Melinda with their son Andrew

Family moments ... Melinda had seemed happy

Ken, the former deputy commissioner of New South Wales Fire Service, says: "I met Melinda through a social networking group called Dinner for Six.

It's for busy, professional people who don't have time to date and the idea is that six people turn up at a smart restaurant and see how they get along. On this particular evening, I was already at the venue when Melinda walked in and there was an instant attraction to this intelligent, blonde woman walking towards the bar.

"Melinda hailed from Perth and told me how she began her career in nursing. She left for the UK in her late Twenties and lived in the Docklands area of East London. She worked in both private hospitals and NHS accident and emergency departments. Then she studied for an MBA business degree and worked in sales and marketing for medical development companies in Germany and France.

"She said she had returned to Australia to be close to her family, although with hindsight it was odd that she had headed for Sydney when her family were far away in Perth."

Ken was captivated by his dinner date and the attraction appeared mutual.

Within months the pair had moved into a smart Sydney suburb and Melinda was pregnant with their first child. Ken says: "We both thought we had left it too late to have children so Andrew was extra special. He was born on 19 August 2004 and I cut the umbilical chord. I instantly fell in love with him and felt an overwhelming need to protect him and Melinda."

Melinda appeared happy in her new role as a mum but pangs of jealousy and irrationality had begun to make Ken feel uneasy.

He explains: "She accused me more than once of having an affair completely out of the blue. Once I came home from a bike ride and she said I must have been with another woman because I didn't look sweaty enough to have been exercising.

"Typically, she would disappear to a café for a few hours before returning home and calming down. Once she even said: 'Oh well, it must just be my paranoia!'

Despite Melinda's mood swings, Ken continued to bond with his son, taking time out from his high-powered job to change nappies, engage in bath time and take his son back and forth to nursery after Melinda returned to work.

He says: "We developed a wonderful bond and would have special times together. We loved our bike rides, nature walks in the bush and ball games in the park. Initially, Andrew had a shy timid nature but by the age of three he was developing a healthy interest in pushing the boundaries."
Snippet from the past ... Ken's picture memories of son Andrew

Sadly, family life in the Thompson household took a sinister turn for the worse on 6 December 2007. Ken returned home at 10pm from a rare Christmas drinks evening out to find Melinda cold and hostile towards him.

He says: "As usual, she wouldn't discuss her feelings and I assumed she had irrationally deduced that I was having an affair and believed it would blow over as it normally did - but it didn't."

In the following days, Melinda's behaviour became increasingly strange and she began subtly trying to keep father and son apart.

She also accused Andrew's doting 88-year-old grandmother (Ken's mother) of not loving her son and said she believed that Andrew's day-care provider had been bullying him.

Finally, she told Ken she wanted to talk things through with her brother John, who also lives in Sydney, and proposed to go with Andrew and live with him for a short period. Ken agreed in the vain hope that Melinda's brother would help her see sense.

But on 28 January 2008, Ken was left reeling from shock after he found a note from Melinda pushed through the door of their home.

He says: "It said that the marriage was over and there was no chance of reconciliation because she believed I had been abusing Andrew. It also said that an investigation was underway by the authorities.

"What it didn't say was that the authorities had already investigated and concluded that there was no basis to her claims. I was an absolute mess but close friends sensibly pointed me in the direction of a lawyer."

A bitter court battle ensued and Melinda was ultimately in receipt of a psychiatric report commissioned by a judge that stated she has a tendency to interpret innocent behaviour in the most sinister way and added that she has a 'serious underlying mental state causing her to form beliefs that aren't true.'

Ken says: "The next day she was on a plane. I know that she and Andrew flew from Sydney to Singapore and then on to Frankfurt but after that the trail went cold. Worryingly, the court psychiatrist has since concluded that he has 'serious and grave concerns for Andrew's physical and emotional safety.' I HAVE to find my son."

An international search for Andrew has been in progress since his abduction. It is the largest search ever undertaken for a child abducted from Australia. It includes Interpol; the Australian Federal Police; missing children organisations in the UK; USA; Canada; Europe; Asia, and Australia. But so far Andrew, now almost 6, remains hidden.

Ken says: "Melinda is a clever, determined woman and I wouldn't be surprised if she is getting help from some sort of underground movement. There is a strong possibility that she is here in the UK. We used to talk about going to live in Europe and she would always say that Britain would be the best place to go. So please, please help me to look for my son.

Ken says: "Andrew has lost his dad, his country, his friends, his family and even his identity." His eyes fill with tears as he adds: "I don't even know if he speaks English any more."

Now Ken can only cycle and hope. He says finally: "I've done everything I can possibly do in Australia and I couldn't sit back any longer. I had no choice but to get on the road. It may not be for a long time, but one day Andrew will know how hard I fought for him and I will never stop."

  • For more information or to report a sighting of Andrew and Melinda log onto findandrew.com.
    You can also join Andrew's Facebook cause from this link and follow Ken's blog on http://findandrewthompsoneurope2010.blogspot.com.

    If you do recognise Andrew or Melinda, they should not be approached but instead reported through the link above.