herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

'I just want to hug my son' - Dad of boy taken by his mother

Jeremy O'Connor and His Son. Photo: Seamus Farrelly
Jeremy O'Connor and His Son. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

A man who hasn't been able to hug his four-year-old son since he was taken to South Africa by his mother three years ago has said the lives of his family have been shattered.

Jeremy O'Connor drove his ex-wife Yolandie Botha and son Joshua to the airport to start a month's holiday to South Africa in 2014, but she then told him they would not be returning.

He immediately contacted the authorities, and said he was told that under the Hague Convention a court case would be held within a year.

Forget

However, three years later, Mr O'Connor, from Navan, Co Meath, is still waiting for a date to present his case.

Although he speaks to Joshua regularly on Skype, he has not held him in three years and is worried the little boy is now beginning to forget his relatives.

Mr O'Connor said the South African authorities have def-erred court dates three times, with no new date given.

"Yolandie and I split amic- ably after being together a number of years," he said. "I had absolutely no problem with her taking Joshua to South Africa for a holiday to see her family.

"I signed the necessary consent forms and even drove them to the airport. That was the last time I saw my son.

"She contacted me before she was due to return to tell me they weren't coming back."

Mr O'Connor said that, under access rights, he is allowed to contact Joshua through Skype.

Jeremy O’Connor with a photo of son Joshua, who was taken to South Africa by his ex-wife. Photo: Seamus Farrelly
Jeremy O’Connor with a photo of son Joshua, who was taken to South Africa by his ex-wife. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

"I Skype him regularly, but I haven't seen him in over three years. I also have other children who miss him dreadfully and he has missed out on a lot of family occasions," he said.

"I was really close to Joshua when he was here and now I only see him on a screen. I can't even hug him.

"My mother Skyped him the other day and he didn't know who she was. She was devastated and cried no end.

"I feel failed by the South African authorities. They haven't appointed me a solicitor and every court date has been deferred."

Upheaval

Mr O'Connor now fears that, due to the time elapsed a court might rule that Joshua is settled in South Africa and it would be an upheaval to move him.

"He has Irish citizenship. He was taken out of this country and I should have had him back at least two years ago if the justice system worked properly," said Mr O'Connor.

He decided to talk about his plight publicly after all other routes failed.

"I'm stuck in this limbo forever and it gets worse and worse every day," he said. "A lot of lives have been shattered by this and I'm desperate to try and get some kind of help."

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