herald

Sunday 21 December 2014

Bring my Ellie home, pleads mum of girl missing for 5 months

A Dublin-based mother fears the case of her missing daughter is destined to become another Madeleine McCann-style disappearance.

Candice Gannon is enduring a real-life nightmare after her daughter vanished while on holiday with her father.

It is now five months since Candice waved goodbye to Giselle Candice Kelly Silva -- whose pet name is Ellie.

In just ten days, Ellie will celebrate her eighth birthday -- but she will do so without her mother.

The last contact her distraught mother had with her daughter was a brief phone call in August.

Since then, Candice has been desperately searching for Ellie after her former Portuguese partner allegedly went into hiding with the little girl following their two-week summer holiday in the Algarve in July.

This is despite the fact that a family court in Faro instructed Filipe da Silva in September to immediately return the child.



Breach

He failed to honour a commitment to send his daughter back home after the holiday and is now in direct breach of a court order instructing the girl's immediate return to her mother.

Candice (28) -- who is married to Dublin businessman Philip Gannon with whom she has another child -- fears something "sinister" may have happened to Ellie.

"It is really stressful, we are living on the edge," Candice told the Herald. "It is almost five months since I have seen her. I don't know if she is dead or alive."

Candice, who is originally from Cheltenham in the UK, has an Irish passport through her Irish-born grandparents. Ellie, however, has a British passport.

Candice met Filipe de Silva when she was just 18 years old and had Ellie one year later ,but the couple parted several years ago.

Ellie was living in Madeira with her mother, stepfather and sister Olivia, after Ms Gannon won full custody of her in 2010. The family split their time between Dublin and Madeira.

Following her disappearance the Family Court in Faro issued a warrant to locate Ellie and return her to her mother, to be carried out by Portugal's police forces.

The court also banning Mr Silva from leaving the country and had his daughter's details inserted into the Schengen Information System.

But distraught mum Candice has criticised the Portuguese police, saying they are not providing her family with enough information about the investigation.

"We have just had a call to say that Filipe has been spotted at the airport but there is nothing to back that up," she said.

"The police in Portugal don't communicate with me at all, they liaise with my lawyer."

The world was transfixed in 2007 when three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished during a family holiday in the same region of southern Portugal. Now Candice has found herself in a similar position as her family travels up and down the country of Portugal seeking Ellie.

"We are been treated worse than the McCanns. No one has seen my child. It is just a nightmare.

"Ellie has not been in school -- the Department of Education in Portugal verified that."



Traumatic

The hunt for Ellie has so far proved fruitless and the distraught mum is now dreading the run-up to Christmas as her family's nightmare continues.

"It has been so traumatic. We did a huge campaign in Madeira -- with the TV stations, newspapers, local media," she said.

"I keep going because I have another child to look after. I have to look after her. It has been really tough. We have to go back and find Ellie -- I can't live without my daughter."

Former Fine Gael TD Mary Banotti from the Irish Centre for Parentally Abducted Children (ICPAC) said that because Ireland is not the "habitual residence" of the child, it was difficult for Irish authorities to become involved.

"It is often very difficult to get local police in some countries," Ms Banotti told the Herald.

"But there has to be some way in which these they can get local action."

She advised the Gannons to contact Reunite in England, who help with family custody cases such as this.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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