A MALLORCA-BASED dad has thanked the Olive Press after he was reunited with his seven-year-old daughter after she was ‘abducted’ and taken to a Norwegian church by his ex-partner.
British expat Dominic Shepherd, 40, said he was ‘elated’ after winning back Maia, six months after Tonje Bjornsen, 37, fled to the church seeking ‘asylum’ with their child.
As we reported exclusively two months ago, Bjornsen ‘abducted’ Maia and her 10-year-old brothers, Tobias and Christian, last year after claiming she was going to Norway to visit her sick mother.
Shepherd, an IT specialist, based in Santa Ponsa, won back all three children after taking the case to the Hague Convention, and was victorious in every subsequent custody court battle.
But after the doting dad flew to Norway to collect the children in February, Bjornsen hid in the church in Alesund with Maia before Shepherd won a final court battle in July.
“It was very emotional when I saw Maia again,” Shepherd told the Olive Press. “There were tears in both our eyes.
“I hadn’t seen her for nearly a year. It’s almost impossible to describe that moment when you haven’t seen your own child for such a long time.
“There are just so many emotions flowing but obviously just one of huge relief. She had grown a lot as well. It was quite a shock how much bigger she was.”
Bjornsen now faces two criminal charges in Spain over the abduction case.
Shepherd’s plight was reported exclusively in the Olive Press before being covered in the Mail On Sunday.
“I am so happy with your help…although one Norwegian journalist gave me a bit of stick for how direct you were.
“But I told her it seems to have worked and it was the angle we wanted to go in on – these are British citizens and they have been abducted illegally’.”
He continued: “Basically people stood up and listened and I’m sure I got more cooperation from the government in Norway because of the press articles.”
Maia wasn’t allowed to leave the church to go to school, could only access a swing at the back of the church to play on and passed time learning to play the church organ.
“She didn’t have any friends to play with,” said Shepherd. “She turned seven in there. I asked her how her birthday was and she shared it ‘with another girl’.
“I said, ‘That’s nice, how how old was she?’ She said, ‘98’.”
Shepherd is now hoping to get Maia into the same school as her brothers in September.
“It was very emotional when they all met up again. Christian broke down crying and gave her a big hug. They all missed each other.
“I feel elated. To have all three back together and see them all grow and develop together.
“They shouldn’t have had to go through all this. But I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”