15 December 2008
Father pleads for help to find abducted sons
By Carol Nader
Photo: The distraught Melbourne father of two boys who disappeared in Sweden with their mother speaks out about his fears for his sons' safety. Photo: Melanie Dove
The distraught Melbourne father of two boys who disappeared in Sweden with their mother two months ago has spoken out about his fears for his sons' safety, and has accused Australian authorities of helping to "facilitate their abduction".
- Father of missing boys speaks out
- Kids were 'let down by the system'
- Authorities 'helped facilitate abduction'
The Age revealed last month that the man had flown to Sweden to find his two sons - Frank Oliver Valette, 11, and Andre Nicholas Valette, 9 - after his Swedish ex-wife defied a Family Court order to return them to Melbourne on October 11.
The identity of the father, George Pesor, can now be revealed, after the Family Court on Friday granted permission to publish his name and more details of the extraordinary case in a bid to help find the boys. The case has captured the attention of the Swedish media, and Mr Pesor is now appealing for help in Australia to hire a private investigator to find his sons.
The boys are now effectively considered abducted by their mother, Ann-Louise Valette, and Swedish police have been searching for her. A warrant is out for her arrest and Interpol has been informed.
Mr Pesor is grateful to the Family Court for allowing him to speak out, but has slammed Australian authorities for doing little to help him find his children. He says the system has failed to protect his children by granting his ex-wife permission to take them to Sweden. He says she was permitted to do this despite the fact that he had repeatedly voiced concerns that if she was allowed to take the children to Sweden, she would not return them.
"I've tried my best to protect my kids. I understand the court's position and the legislation in both countries. The kids have the right to see both parents, so my basic presumption in court was 'let's make sure that these kids come back because of the threat of kidnapping'," he said.
"My kids have been let down by the system, but unfortunately myself and my wife are going to be the ones who are going to pick up the pieces. How the hell am I going to pay for counselling for these kids and work on the trauma that they've gone through?"
Mr Pesor said that last year Ms Valette started telling the children over the phone that when they went to Sweden, she would keep them there. Transcripts of Family Court proceedings show that these concerns were raised in court.
A family consultant who interviewed the boys told the court that both Frank and Andre had expressed concerns that their mother would keep them in Sweden. Both boys said they wanted to live with their father, but also wanted to spend time with their mother.
A long and bitter custody battle that has gone through the courts in two countries over several years has left Mr Pesor bankrupt, prompting him to take the desperate step of appealing for help to hire a private investigator.
The last conversation he had with this sons was on the phone on October 4.
The boys were due to board a plane on October 9, but never did. It is not known for certain whether Ms Valette and the boys are still in Sweden.
It is suspected she may have been helped to go underground by a women's organisation.
Mr Pesor met Ms Valette in Germany 20 years ago. They married in Sweden and lived there for 12 years before Mr Pesor filed for divorce five years ago. Both the boys were born in Sweden but are Australian citizens.
Mr Pesor was granted custody by a Swedish court and permission to bring his children to live with him in Australia. Ms Valette was permitted to see the boys twice a year. Mr Pesor organised and paid for three visits, but then could no longer afford to, prompting Ms Valette to apply for access under the Hague Convention.
Mr Pesor fears his ex-wife may harm the children. She has repeatedly made allegations that he and others in his family had sexually abused the boys. The allegations have never been substantiated by police.
Mr Pesor and his wife, Mette Stryhn, returned from Sweden a week ago, after their own desperate attempt to find the boys. They visited Ms Valette's house in Oxelosund, about 100 kilometres from Stockholm, and spoke to her neighbours, who had no idea where they were. They went to her parents' house in Vasateras, but did not speak to them because the police had pleaded with them not to. Instead, they left flyers with photos of the boys in letterboxes around the neighbourhood.
The case raises questions about how the legal rights of parents are balanced against the protection of children. Ms Valette was able to gain access to the boys after applying through the Hague Convention, which deals with international abduction and also ensures that custody and access rights are respected in other countries that are party to the convention.
The Family Court in Australia granted her permission to take the boys to Sweden in September and return them on October 11. Since Ms Valette defied the court order the Family Court has issued subsequent orders saying that she have no more contact with the children.
"I'm very saddened by the fact that the Australian authorities have been willing to set the interests of the boys aside in the interests of protecting Australia's reputation and reciprocity of the Hague Convention," he said.
Any information about the whereabouts of Ms Valette and the children should be given to the Australian Federal Police on (02) 6126 7777. This number applies in all states and territories. Donations can be made by writing to George Pesor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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