Toronto

Mother charged in 1993 abduction remanded

The woman accused of abducting her infant daughter and hiding with her in British Columbia for 18 years is remanded after a brief court appearance in Toronto.
Sigourney Chisholm is shown, left, when she was an infant and at her high school graduation in 2009. ((MissingKids.ca, Times Colonist))

The woman accused of abducting her infant daughter and hiding with her in British Columbia for 18 years will remain in police custody after a brief court appearance in a Toronto courtroom on Monday.

Patricia O'Byrne's bail hearing was remanded until Tuesday morning.

"We're going to fight tooth and nail to get her released and to fight these charges," lawyer Todd White said.

"There's always more to every allegation and always more to the story."

O'Byrne, 54, was arrested last week in Victoria and arrived in Toronto on Sunday evening. She spent the night at Vanier Centre, a women's detention facility in Milton, Ont. 

The bail hearing, set for Tuesday to allow the Crown to prepare its case, will be also argued by well-known defence lawyer Edward Greenspan, said White. But he expressed outrage that O'Byrne is being held in custody as the case plays out.

"Around the world, around the country, people who are alleged to have committed this offence are released on bail routinely," White said.

"They're presumed innocent ... I don't see any evidence to think that she'd be a flight risk whatsoever."

All the charges simply suggest "that they moved someplace else and stayed there," he said.

"It's not as if there's any allegations that she was travelling outside of Canada or moving all around, but the evidence will speak for itself once that comes out."

 

Patricia O'Byrne, 54, was arrested in Victoria on Wednesday in an alleged parental abduction in 1993. ((MissingKids.ca))

Police allege that in 1993, O’Byrne fled from Toronto to B.C. with 20-month-old Sigourney Chisholm following a custody battle with the girl’s father, Joe Chisholm.

Joe Chisholm appeared in court on Monday along with his aunt and a family friend. They did not want to speak to the media.

Chisholm spent 18 years searching for Sigourney, who is now 20 years old.

Police say Sigourney and her mother had been living in Victoria under assumed names: her mother as Pamela Whelan, her daughter as Thea Whelan.

Pamela Whelan worked for the B.C. government as a public affairs officer until May and was on the parents' committee at Victoria High School.

Thea Whalen was chosen co-valedictorian when she graduated from Vic High in 2009.

In September, police received a tip through the Missing Children Society that O’Byrne may be living on Vancouver Island.

CBC News spoke to Joe Chisholm on Friday. He said he was looking forward to a reunion with his daughter, but understands the difficulty of the situation and said he will let her decide the timing of any reunion.

With files from The Canadian Press