The three-year saga continues in the case of Lauren Etchells, the mother charged with abducting her own child in 2016, as she faces trial in the United Kingdom this week.
On July 4, Saanich Police shared with the public that Etchells had been arrested in Jersey, an island in the English Channel near Normandy, France. Etchells, along with her parents and two children, were spotted landing a 13-foot inflatable dinghy by a bystander who quickly called local police.
Etchells faces two counts of exposing a child to risk of harm in Jersey and has been released on bail, but according to Saanich Police Sgt. Chris Horsley, crown counsel in Jersey do not support extraditing Etchells back to Canada, meaning Canadian authorities aren’t able to take any further action. However, if Etchells ever leaves Jersey, Horsley says she would be arrested immediately.
|Lauren Etchells was arrested in July, as her and her family tried to avoid passport control in the United Kingdom by going ashore in a 13-foot inflatable dinghy.|
In 2016 a Canada-wide warrant for her arrest was issued, along with an Interpol Red Notice, both of which are still activate, says Horsley. The Interpol Red Notice is what ultimately lead to her arrest. When Etchells and her family came ashore, they were questioned by authorities who realized there was a world wide flag seeking her arrest.
Horsley, who’s been involved in other extraditions, explains that if the process were to occur, Jersey police would transport Etchells to the airport there. The moment she steps on to an Air Canada plane, which is considered Canadian soil, the power to arrest her would kick in and she would be detained on the plane, says Horsley. Both crown counsel in Victoria and Saanich Police support her extradition and would be responsible for covering the cost of transferring her.
The investigation to locate Etchells and Kaydance, the child she shares with Tasha Brown, spanned years. Brown lives in Nanaimo but traveled to Jersey to be reunited with her daughter. Police learned that Etchells had left Canada to go to England, where her parents live, then traveled to France, to the Netherlands, to the Middle East and possibly to Spain and Portugal. Horsley says Saanich Police had to cooperate and coordinate investigation tactics with a number of police forces internationally.
Etchells and Brown married in August 2012, and wanted to start a family. The couple found a sperm donor located in Edmonton and Etchells gave birth to Kaydance in September 2014.
Things began to change in July 2015, when the couple began to plan for a second child. Their original donor had moved away so they chose a close friend of Etchells’ to be their next donor, Marco van der Merwe.
|Kaydance, the child Lauren Etchells has been charged with abducting from Canada.|
On May 9, 2016, a day after Etchells allegedly left the country, Brown held a regularly scheduled Skype call with Etchells and Kaydance. It was odd to Brown that Kaydance was already in her pyjamas, and that the date stamp on the Skype call said 1:30 a.m.
“[I] brushed it off as a Skype glitch and didn’t question [it],” writes Brown in a GoFundMe page. “Looking back, I wish I had.”
Saanich Police withheld the release of the case to the public for more than three months for several reasons, one of which was to protect Etchells from possible prosecution for homosexuality in a Middle Eastern country.
Brown later learned that Etchells and van der Merwe were engaged. According to Saanich Police, when they finally reached van der Merwe he was not co-operative. Horsley says he has been cleared of any connection to Kaydance’s abduction and was not involved with Etchells when she was arrested in Jersey.
Horsley says Etchells clearly knew police were looking for her and took a number of steps to avoid being found, specifically avoiding passport control. Etchells has dual citizenship and police had to make sure she didn’t obtain another passport, even going so far to check out health care facilities in hopes that she would have taken her children there for medical care.
Through times of frustration, Horsley says police never lost hope they would eventually find her. Throughout the investigation a number of tips from different countries came in, but it was never enough to identify her location.
“It’s not as hard as you think to go off the grid and not be found,” he says. “And so there was certainly a level of frustration, but never a lack of hope.”