French mom pleads guilty to abducting own kids

3rd November 2006, Comments 0 comments

VANCOUVER, Canada, Nov 3, 2006 (AFP) - A French mother of four pleaded guilty Friday to kidnapping her two Canadian-born children, court sources said, in a case that has grabbed international attention.

VANCOUVER, Canada, Nov 3, 2006 (AFP) - A French mother of four pleaded guilty Friday to kidnapping her two Canadian-born children, court sources said, in a case that has grabbed international attention.

University professor Nathalie Gettliffe pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of kidnapping two children fathered by her Canadian former husband Scott Grant and taking them to France in 2001.

Gettliffe, after spending seven months in jail, seemed exhausted when she appeared in court Friday wearing a plain blue prison shirt, black skirt and sturdy black shoes.

In a small but firm voice, Gettliffe stood and replied "guilty" when a court clerk asked how she pleaded.

She will be sentenced late this month to as many as 10 years in prison, the court said.

Gettliffe's lawyer told reporters afterward that remorse can be a factor in sentencing: "A guilty plea is seen as clearly an indication of remorse," said Fowler.

Gettliffe's former husband sat in the front row of the courtroom to watch his ex-wife plead guilty. "I just wanted to see her lose the war today," Grant told reporters outside the court.

"Here she is in the prisoner's (dock) pleading guilty to two counts ... I had to see for myself."

Grant also said he would prefer not to have had the "war": "I always thought there was no battle, there were just two children."

Courts in both Canada and France upheld Grant's custody of the two children, Maximilien and Josephine, now aged 12 and 13.

Gettliffe took the children to her native France in 2001 in defiance of a Canadian court order not to remove them from Canada and their Canadian father.

She justified her flight to France in 2001 by saying that she wanted her children away from the influence of her father, a member of the International Churches of Christ, a religious group controversial in the United States and France.

Public documents show that religion had been an ongoing issue between Grant and Gettliffe since 2001.

Gettliffe married Grant while visiting Canada as a teenager, but the pair divorced in 2000 and were in a bitter custody dispute.

Despite court orders in Canada and France to return the children, Gettliffe refused.

She was arrested April 11 when she flew into this West Coast city to defend her doctoral thesis, which she had begun at the University of British Columbia while living here.

She was pregnant at the time, but two Canadian judges denied her bail for reasons covered by a publication ban.

She gave birth in September to a baby boy by her new common-law husband in France, Francis Gruzelle. The infant has since lived with her in jail, and Gettliffe and Gruzelle also have a toddler, who remains in France.

In July, with a French police escort, Grant retrieved the children from Gettliffe's relatives in France and brought them to his home in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.

Gettliffe's case has drawn intense international attention, with Gettliffe's supporters in France lobbying governments in Canada and France for her release and filing a complaint with the United Nations.

Gettliffe and Gruzelle recently published a book in France about the "hell" of Canadian prisons, and she has launched an election campaign to become president of France.

Such lengthy and international kidnappings are unusual, and there are few Canadian court rulings similar to Gettliffe's case.

Under Canadian law, however, the judge can choose from a range of sentences for Gettliffe, including a complete discharge, time served in jail while awaiting trial or a maximum jail term of 10 years, which would be extremely unusual.

Grant told reporters that he still remembered a phone call in 2001 after Gettliffe left Canada. "There was a phone call when she first left to laugh at the court system."

"In these cases there is never a victory," he said, with anger in his voice about losing his children for five years. "I missed out on their childhood. It was stolen from me, by someone who thought she could drag it on and beat the system."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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