Woman allegedly fled state with grandson

·5-min read
A Queensland woman is facing trial for the alleged conspiracy to defeat justice after she allegedly ignored family court orders and travelled with a child across state borders without permission. Picture: NCA News Wire / Glenn Campbell

A Queensland woman who had allegedly abducted her grandson and spent months evading police knew she was caught when she spotted officers waiting for her at a train station, a jury has heard.

A 61-year-old woman and a 50-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are on trial in Brisbane District Court after each pleaded not guilty to conspiring to defeat justice.

The Crown has alleged the two Townsville women were involved with co-conspirators – some of whom are yet to stand trial – who worked together to help accommodate women battling the Family Court Circuit over custody issues involving children.

It’s alleged their actions prevented the court system from proceeding in relation to both matters.

The 61-year-old woman had travelled to NSW in March 2018 with her grandson, whom she had legal custody over, despite being in a legal battle with the boy’s father about school holiday living arrangements.

She had previously made allegations the boy’s father had sexually abused him, but these were unsubstantiated by police.

The 61-year-old woman had custody of her grandson when she took him from Queensland, a court has heard. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Glenn Campbell
The two Queensland women are facing trial in the Brisbane District Court. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

The jury heard the pair had flown into Ballina, NSW and were picked up by farmer Doris Adams after she’d been talking to one of the alleged co-offenders.

Ms Adams said she’d offered to collect the 61-year-old woman and the six-year-old boy from the airport because she was in Ballina for another reason.

It’s not alleged Ms Adams knew or was involved in the conspiracy.

She told the court the 61-year-old woman and the boy, who she knew as “Ben”, ended up staying the night at her home because the rain was so heavy.

Ms Adams said the boy “was a little withdrawn but he was so excited about the cows” on her farm.

“The cows are very quiet on my farm. It was exciting for a little boy,” she said.

The jury heard the pair left the following day and Ms Adams never saw or heard of them again.

Transport service driver Paul Bradford, who operates in the Port Macquarie area, told the court he remembered the 61-year-old woman had booked to be collected from Bonny Hills on the day of her arrest in May 2018.

“I had the phone at the time and she wanted to go to Coffs Harbour and it was too much (money); we discussed multiple travel options and I suggested (taking her to) the Wauchope Railway Station,” Mr Bradford said.

“I didn’t expect any more than one passenger. She had a little small child with her, which I was a little surprised about.”

Mr Bradford said after he collected the 61-year-old woman and her grandson, they had a “general discussion about driving” but their conversation was “a little unusual”.

“I do remember feeling there was a lot of anger towards the court system, that sort of stood out to me, because it was unusual,” he said.

Crown Prosecutor Mark Dean KC told the jury the two women were co-conspirators. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Glenn Campbell

When they arrived at the Wauchope Railway Station, Mr Bradford said he saw “two gentlemen” waiting outside the train station.

“She said, ‘They’re here for me, keep driving,’” Mr Bradford said.

“I wasn’t going to drop her off in front of two scary-looking blokes, so I drove slowly through the carpark and then they waved police badges at me, so I stopped.

“They put handcuffs on her and took the child away.”

It’s alleged during the time the 61-year-old woman was in NSW, the 50-year-old woman had helped source accommodation for the grandmother and her grandson.

The 50-year-old woman had four years earlier in 2014 allegedly taken her five-year-old twins interstate and had remained in hiding until her arrest in May 2018 in Taree, NSW.

The jury heard the 50-year-old woman had accused the twins’ father of sexually abusing them, but this was also unsubstantiated by police.

A 50-year-old woman is facing trial for the alleged conspiracy to defeat justice after she allegedly ignored family court orders and travelled with a child across state borders without permission. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Glenn Campbell

The 50-year-old woman didn’t have custody of her children at the time of their abduction.

Bulahdelah resident Maya Rutland told the jury she had met the 50-year-old woman and her two daughters in 2015, but knew them by different names.

The jury heard the woman had helped connect the 50-year-old woman with a friend in finding a place to live near Taree in 2018.

Ms Rutland said she found the woman she knew as “Lucy” to be friendly and would sometimes drive her daughters “Kel and Jaz” into town.

Ms Rutland told the jury she’d been at the 50-year-old woman’s house when police arrived and arrested her in May 2018.

“I had heard police had been outside the house, surveillancing the house for about three days beforehand,” she said.

“I’d come there straight after a night shift and when I’d arrived … police came out and called her name and said ‘you’re under arrest’ and I thought ‘what’s going on’.

“It was such a traumatic experience. It was very stressful.”

Ms Rutland said she had “a feeling” the 50-year-old woman had been in hiding from her husband, but didn’t know any of the details.

The jury heard the 50-year-old woman had been using Ms Rutland’s Medicare card without her knowledge.

When asked whether she’d forgotten if she’d given the 50-year-old woman her Medicare card, Ms Rutland said she wouldn’t do “something silly ” like that.

“I know it’s illegal, so I wouldn’t have done that,” Ms Rutland said.

No criminal charges have ever been laid against either father in the two cases.

The trial continues before Judge Leanne Clare SC.