British Columbia

B.C. child found safe in Europe; mother arrested for alleged parental abduction

Nearly three years after leaving B.C., a dual Canadian-British citizen accused of abducting her now four-year-old daughter from Vancouver Island has been arrested.

Lauren Ann Etchells was wanted for alleged abduction and defying a court order after leaving country in 2016

Kaydance Etchells, when she was 19 months old, with her mothers Lauren Etchells, centre, and Tasha Brown. (Tasha Brown/Facebook)

A dual Canadian-British citizen accused of abducting her infant daughter from Vancouver Island has been arrested, nearly three years after leaving the province and after evading authorities in several European countries.

The girl, Kaydance Page Etchells, now four, was found safe and "in good health," police said Thursday.

In 2016, Lauren Ann Etchells, then 31, allegedly defied a court order and boarded a WestJet flight from Vancouver to London's Gatwick Airport with Kaydance. Her then-partner, Marco van der Merwe, and their newborn son, Marcus, went with them.

Kaydance, who was then 19 months old, was reported missing by her other mother Tasha Brown — Etchells's estranged wife. 

Kaydance, with both of her mothers, at seven months old. Lauren Etchells, right, has been accused of abducting the girl and fleeing Canada. (Where in the World is Kaydance?/Facebook)

On Thursday, the Saanich Police Department announced Etchells and Kaydance had been found travelling in a dinghy in the English Channel, along with Marcus and Etchells's parents, on July 1.

"The group was spotted landing a 13-foot inflatable dinghy on the shores just south of St. Catherine's, Jersey, a small island in the English Channel. When questioned as to their plans, they advised they were holidaying in France and decided to pop over to Jersey for a visit," a police statement read.

"None of the five passengers had passports and it quickly became apparent to officials that their story did not add up."

Lauren Ann Etchells was arrested after arriving on the shores just south of St. Catherine's, Jersey, in a four-metre inflatable dinghy. Also in the boat were her parents and two children. (Saanich Police Department)

Mother, grandparents arrested

Police said Etchells, now 33, and her parents, both 67, were arrested for offences relating to child neglect and immigration offences and have pleaded guilty. A statement said Kaydance and Marcus were apprehended and placed into foster care as the case is "worked through."

In the statement, Brown said she was "extremely grateful" to know her daughter is safe.

Tasha Brown made a tearful plea for information to help police find Kaydance in 2016. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"I am celebrating today. Kaydance is alive, and we know where she is! But I can't celebrate 100% yet. Not until Kaydance is back in Canada," Brown wrote.

"It is for this reason that I am spending today with my lawyer, and the various other agencies involved in bringing Kaydance home safely and … SOON!!"

Interpol involved in case

Brown and Etchells were married in B.C. in August 2012. Etchells gave birth to Kaydance in Edmonton on Sept. 26, 2014.

Police said both Brown and Etchells are listed as Kaydance's parents on her birth certificate. The family later moved to Nanaimo, B.C.

On July 31, 2015, Brown and Etchells separated. Kaydance was living with Etchells while court proceedings took place over custody of the girl, said police.

Both mothers were listed as parents on Kaydance's original birth certificate, but Lauren Etchells, left, obtained a second birth certificate showing her as the sole parent, police allege. (Where in the World is Kaydance?/Facebook)

In August 2015, a court order required Etchells to surrender Kaydance's U.K. passport and forbade her from applying for a Canadian passport for the girl, and from leaving Vancouver Island.

Police allege Etchells disobeyed that court order in April by lying to Passport Canada and obtaining another passport for Kaydance. Etchells had previously obtained a second birth certificate, showing her as Kaydance's only parent, said police.

After Kaydance was reported missing, Interpol put out a "red notice" for Etchells, which is essentially an international flag that a person is wanted.

Over the course of the investigation, Saanich police said they learned Etchells, Kaydance and Marcus travelled from Canada to England, then to France, the Netherlands, the Middle East and possibly to Spain and Portugal.

At some point, the statement read, Etchells broke off her relationship with van der Merwe, "and continued to move about Europe with Kaydance and her son Marcus, using their U.K. passports."

With files from Lisa Johnson