A 12-year-old girl who was abducted by her father from Portsmouth four years ago and taken to live with his relatives in the Middle East phoned her mother in England and said ‘I really miss Christmas, I miss cold weather and I miss you’, a family court judge has been told.
But a judge says that after the child’s parents had a discussion in court, he is optimistic that Aishah, who turns 12 today and her brother Faris, eight, may be returned to the UK soon.
Former bank clerk Usama Al Barwani - who is in his 30s and from Portsmouth - had returned to the UK after taking daughter Aishah and Faris abroad following the breakdown of his relationship with their mother Lacey Plato.
He was subsequently convicted of abduction and was released last month after serving half of a four-year jail term imposed by a crown court judge.
Miss Plato, also in her 30s and from Portsmouth, has launched separate family court litigation in a bid to get the youngsters – who she believes are in Oman with Al Barwani’s sister – back to England.
At the latest in a series of hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London, she told the judge how Aishah had called her without warning a few days ago.
‘I said to her, “Christmas is coming - you should be here for Christmas”,’ Miss Plato told Mr Justice Hayden.
‘She said, “I really miss Christmas, I miss cold weather and I miss you”.’
Miss Plato said the connection was lost shortly afterwards.
Barrister Jonathan Evans, who represented Miss Plato, suggested that he might ask for Al Barwani – who was at the hearing – to be committed to prison for not arranging the return of the children in breach of family court orders.
But Mr Justice Hayden said he wanted to give the children’s parents a chance to talk.
He ordered Court 45 at the Royal Courts of Justice to be emptied so that Miss Plato and Al Barwani could speak privately.
The pair spoke for more than 30 minutes.
Al Barwani indicated afterwards that he would contact relatives in Oman and try to make arrangements for the children’s return.
Mr Justice Hayden said the pair’s discussions gave him ‘real hope’, and said he would reconsider the case again in the near future.
Last year, another judge - overseeing an earlier stage of the litigation - had described Al Barwani as ‘disgraceful’.
Mr Justice Moor had said it was rare that a court was faced with a father who could behave so ‘wickedly’.
Miss Plato told Mr Justice Hayden that Aishah would be 12 on December 21.