Toronto mother reunited with abducted children
Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Monday, December 17, 2012 5:57AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 3:11PM EST
A Toronto mother gave a tearful thank-you to police and government agencies Monday for their help in reuniting her with her children, who were allegedly abducted by relatives in Zimbabwe.
Holding her children close to her, Beatra Muzabazi broke down in tears as she explained what the reunion means to her and how much she appreciates the work that was done to reunite the family.
“Without you guys there would be no way … but you made it possible for me,” Muzabazi said at a news conference at police headquarters. “You made it possible for me to be with my children for Christmas.”
Muzabazi said her children, four-year-old Shane and seven-year-old Rene, are afraid to leave her since they were reunited about a week ago.
The children were taken to Zimbabwe last April to spend the summer with their extended family for an agreed-upon vacation, police said.
Muzabazi, a divorced mother, has sole custody of the children, who were born in Mississauga, said 22 Division Supt. Jim Ramer.
After the kids arrived in Zimbabwe, extended family members refused to return them to Canada and placed them in a boarding school in the African country, police allege.
The boarding school is accused of helping the extended family to prevent local authorities from finding the children.
Muzabazi, a Canadian citizen who is originally from Zimbabwe, reported the allegations to Toronto police on Sept. 1.
After that, Toronto police contacted Foreign Affairs, the RCMP’s national missing children services and Interpol. Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General became involved as officials worked with the Zimbabwe Central Authority.
“The maternal grandmother, who resides in Zimbabwe, was instrumental in obtaining the documentation, but the children's mother was required by local police to fly to Zimbabwe to regain custody of her children,” police said in a news release.
Within two days, 22 Division's community police liaison committee offered the money to pay for the flight, and the mother was flown to Zimbabwe to try to bring her children back.
But when the mother arrived at the school and waited outside, a family member, with the help of the boarding school, fled with the children, police said.
As local police searched for the children and the family member, the kids were dropped off at the Canadian Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe on Dec. 11, and they were reunited with their mother, police said.
Two days later, the children and their mother returned to their home in Toronto.
Mom, police feared kids would not return home
As she described the painful and frustrating ordeal, Muzabazi said she frequently called the lead investigator, Det. Const. Shari Nevills, in the middle of the night while her children were in Zimbabwe because she feared the kids would not return.
Muzabazi said she had plenty of sleepless nights and was losing hope.
“I was crying a lot, hoping that they would come back to me some day,” she told CP24 reporter Rena Heer after the news conference.
Police shared the mother's fears because investigators and government officials hit so many roadblocks, Nevills told reporters.
"I had several moments where I really didn’t think these kids were coming home," she said.
Nevills said the children had gone on family vacations to Zimbabwe without their mother in the past, and they were always returned on time.
Nevills said one of the challenges was navigating Zimbabwe's legal system.
Police credited the co-operation between the international agencies for reuniting the family.
"We had to rely heavily on their co-operation," Nevills told reporters.
Mike Pelletier, a volunteer with the 22 Division community police liaison committee, said its members were happy to pay for the mother's flight to Zimbabwe and play a role in the reunion.
“It was our absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to make this happen for her,” Pelletier said after meeting Muzabazi and her children. “When you actually see (the family) in the flesh and you see the smiles on their faces and you see how emotional the mother is, we would have done anything.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Canada and Zimbabwe continue to investigate the alleged abduction. Charges have not been laid.
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