Custody battle: Mum sneaked into S'pore by boat to get son

A custody battle over a two-year-old child has seen it all - a bitter court case in London, and now the mother sneaking into Singapore by boat in an attempt to spirit her son away.

Caught in the drama are the child's grandparents.

Last month, they were involved in a scuffle with their daughter-in-law, who was trying to snatch the child from them.

The boy's father is a Singaporean, and his mother a foreigner. They have filed for divorce, and a British court had ordered earlier this year that the child be placed under the mother's care.

When the grandparents in Singapore did not let go of the child, their own son in London had to spend some months in jail for being in contempt of the court - until another judge freed him in July.

Meanwhile, the boy's 30-year-old mother, who cannot be named because of a gag order, decided to take matters into her own hands.

She got in touch with Adam Christopher Whittington, 38, managing director of Child Abduction Recovery International, a non-governmental organisation, to snatch her son back, a district court heard yesterday.

They hired a catamaran from Langkawi, Malaysia, to sneak her into Singapore.

She had told Whittington she could not enter Singapore through the proper channels because her husband had filed police reports against her, and she was concerned she would be arrested.

The boat set off from Langkawi last month, steered by its Australian skipper Todd Allan Wilson, 39, and Whittington, who holds British and Australian passports.

It reached Raffles Marina at Tuas West Drive around 6am on Aug 19.

The marina is not an authorised landing place between 5pm and 9am, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ailene Chou told the court.

Having avoided the immigration authorities, the boy's mother and Whittington took a taxi to the condominium where the child lived with his grandparents.

Two hours later, the boy's 66-year-old grandfather emerged from his apartment, carrying the child. The 68-year-old grandmother was holding his shoes.

Whittington tried to serve the court order on the man while the boy's mother tried to prise the boy away from his grasp. She succeeded when Whittington arm-locked the grandfather. He also hurt the boy's grandmother, who was trying to stop him.

Whittington and the mother were arrested at a hotel, while Wilson was arrested at Tuas West Drive the following day.

Yesterday, the boy's mother and Wilson pleaded guilty to one immigration offence each, while Whittington also admitted to using criminal force on the boy's grandfather and hurting his grandmother.

In mitigation, the woman said she has a divorce proceeding, and missed her son, whom she had not seen for a year. She was depressed and had sleepless nights.

Pleading for a chance, she said she realised she had made a "big mistake", and regretted the offence.

"I believe my son needs me more than anything. I will do it in a proper way with an English lawyer, and wish to proceed with the custody matter in Singapore," she said.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng adjourned the case to Monday.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.