COVER

A RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK

Brenda Branswell June 4 2001
COVER

A RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK

Brenda Branswell June 4 2001

A RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK

COVER

The panicked phone call to the Montreal police came at 4 p.m. on May 8. A woman reported that her estranged husband had picked up their five-year-old son at his day care—and could be following through on a threat to take the boy to their native Algeria. Over the next four hours, authorities launched a frantic search for the father and son, discovering that the pair had already left on a flight bound for Casablanca, Morocco, via New York City.

But the U.S. layover provided a last chance to retrieve the boy (neither Morocco nor Algeria

has signed an international convention that helps ensure the return of children in such cases). The plane was scheduled to arrive at John F Kennedy International Airport around 6:40 p.m. With the clock ticking, Montreal police got an arrest warrant and then raced over to a judge’s home in Brassard, on Montreal's South Shore, to get his signature. The entire procedure took 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Immigration Canada official Howard King informed his American colleagues at Dorval Airport about the case. They relayed the informa-

tion to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York, where an arrest could be made on Canada’s behalf.

When Montreal police tried to fax the warrant to New York around 8 p.m., they ran up against the last thing they needed-a problem with the Americans’ fax machine. King reassured U.S. officials that the warrant was on the way.

“I called and said, ‘It’s coming -believe me, it’s coming.’ ” Finally, the fax went through and U.S. agents swung into action. Just minutes before takeoff in New York, U.S. immigration officials boarded the plane and arrested the father.

He was “obviously very surprised,” said Christian Emond, a Montreal police spokesman. “I’m sure at this point he thought he was going to reach his destination with the boy.” The next day, a Canadian consular official accompanied the boy back to Montreal, where he was reunited with his mother. The father is being detained in New York and awaiting an extradition hearing. Montreal police plan to chaige him with kidnapping. "They could make a movie out of this,” said King. “I think we all had some tension headaches with this one.”

Brenda Branswell