Woman takes boy, 1, into hiding after custody dispute
(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 05 January 2011)
A woman is frantically working to prove the biological identity of a one-year-old who she says is her last child in a saga involving another relative who has also made claims to him.
Alicia Prescott, 32, told Stabroek News from a location on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) where she is hiding with one–year old Paul Tyron that she is fearful for her life, since an aunt with whom she temporarily lived in neighbouring French Guiana has said that the child belongs to her.
Prescott and other relatives retrieved the child from the aunt’s home on Sunday and say that since then they have faced frequent police harassment from ranks on the ECD. Commander of ‘C’ Division Gavin Primo, however, told Stabroek News yesterday that the police are investigating the abduction of a child. He added that his department will issue a statement on the matter at the appropriate time.
Meanwhile, this newspaper made several unsuccessful attempts yesterday to contact Prescott’s aunt and her husband. Checks at the Lot 2 Melanie Public Road, ECD address from which Prescott was issued a lawyer’s letter in December 2009 also proved futile.
“All I want is to have my son with me because I don’t want to live in no foreign country…I have three boys, Paul being the last,” Prescott said, adding that her family has to remain in hiding until tests confirm that she is his mother.
She said her ordeal began in mid-2009, when her aunt asked that she accompany her to Cayenne, in French Guiana. She agreed and on arrival in Cayenne her aunt took her to stay with persons who she had never met before. She said she later found out that the woman she was staying with was a family friend of her aunt.
Prescott was heavily pregnant at the time and she said several weeks later, on July 14, 2009, she gave birth to a baby boy. She said since her documents were “not in order,” her aunt volunteered to have the child registered in her name. Prescott agreed since she was under the impression that her legal status would have been sorted out. She said that her aunt promised her a job and “to make life better.”
However, soon after she delivered the baby, her aunt took the child to another location. She said that after several unsuccessful attempts to locate her aunt, the woman contacted her and explained that everything was going well.
By this time, one of Prescott’s nieces was badly burnt with cooking oil in a freak accident and she was preparing to return to Guyana to help. According to her, her aunt stated that she would travel to Guyana with the boy when he was old enough to travel and that “everything would be alright.”
Prescott noted that sometime after, her aunt, who trades items between Guyana and the neighbouring country, travelled here. However, she said when attempts were made to collect the child, the woman refused to hand over the boy.
It was at that point a disagreement began and she noted that she reported the matter to the police as well as the Human Services Ministry and the French Consulate. Prescott was later advised to take a DNA test to confirm that she is the biological mother of the child.
Prescott noted that sometime last year, one of her aunt’s children advised her that the woman was at the Central Immigration Office in the city with the child. She said she travelled to the location and took the child from the woman, which led to the involvement of the police. She noted that she told officers at the Brickdam Police Station that she was willing to take a DNA test but they refused to cooperate. In the end, the child was handed back to her aunt, who was in possession of documents that indicated that she was the child’s guardian.
According to Prescott, on Sunday, with the help of other relatives, she collected the boy from her aunt’s home. She said it was then that the family began to receive death threats. She added that matters got worse when police ranks searched her mother’s President’s College Road, Golden Grove home.
Prescott’s sister, Lalita Sumner told Stabroek News yesterday that around 1pm on Sunday, several police ranks, accompanied by her aunt’s husband, entered the family’s yard and made inquiries about the boy. She said that the officers were told that neither Alicia nor her son was there. However, according to her, the ranks stated that they wished to search the house.
Lalita Sumner said she lives at the bottom flat along with her husband and three children while another relative, Shaneeza Sumner, lived in another section of the bottom flat.
She said the ranks insisted on searching the house and when they were asked to produce a search warrant, they proceeded to “kick down” the door and ransacked the house. She said the ranks “change the story” and stated that they were looking for guns and ammunition.
As her children looked on, Lalita Sumner said, the policemen emptied the contents of her wardrobe and broke its mirror in the process.
She noted that the men then proceeded to Shaneeza’s apartment but the young mother told them that she would not give them permission to enter her home without a warrant.
Shaneeza told this newspaper that one of the officers placed a gun to her face while he physically assaulted her in the process. “The officer push open the door and cuff me on my breast and said he looking for the little boy,” the young woman related. She said that the officers used a number of expletives in the process, while in the presence of a number of children.
Shaneeza stated that her husband, who was filming the ordeal on his mobile phone, was also physically assaulted. She alleged that the ranks took away his phone as well as a quantity of jewellery and cash. She said a senior officer who was with the team of police officers instructed one of the ranks to return the mobile phone but this was never done.
The family related that the men then proceeded to the upper flat of the building, where they broke a glass at the veranda, and ransacked the house. Lalita stated that her aunt’s husband even threatened the family in the presence of the police officers.
She said that at the moment her aunt receives benefits to the tune of €600 from the French authorities and according to her this may be the reason for her son “being so important to her.”