'Persecuted' Stevenage mum fights custody battle
A TERRIFIED British mother, accused by her Spanish ex-boyfriend of abducting their daughter, has been ordered by London s High Court to return to Tenerife to face legal action. Marina Eldridge, of Redcar Drive in Stevenage, and her five-year-old daughter,
A TERRIFIED British mother, accused by her Spanish ex-boyfriend of abducting their daughter, has been ordered by London's High Court to return to Tenerife to face legal action.
Marina Eldridge, of Redcar Drive in Stevenage, and her five-year-old daughter, Lorena, were due to fly out to the island and be met by police today (Thursday), but an appeal date at the High Court for next Wednesday came through at the 11th hour.
Miss Eldridge, 32, met barman Samuel Diaz when she was working as an English teacher in Tenerife in 2002 and they moved in together. But the couple split up within a year and, on discovering she was pregnant, Miss Eldridge moved back to Stevenage in July 2003 to be near her mother.
Their daughter, Lorena, was born in Britain in December 2003 and since then Miss Eldridge has made a number of visits to Tenerife, spending a total of less than 20 months on the island. But it is the final visit, which lasted 15 months, which has landed her in hot water.
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Because she had lived with her daughter in Tenerife for more than 12 months, Spanish law dictates she had to apply for official leave to take Lorena - as the child of a Spaniard - out of the country.
"I was ignorant to that fact. I had been in and out of the country so many times," said Miss Eldridge. "I'm being persecuted for trying to make a go of it."
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She said she had been living on the holiday island as a single mother and claims Mr Diaz, 29, lived on neighbouring island, La Palma, and wanted no responsibility for their daughter.
"In December 2008 we returned to the UK and he was aware of this," she said. "I had spoken to him many times about it and he always said he wasn't bothered.
"Just before I came over, he returned from the other island and formed a relationship with a lawyer. From then it's been hell."
In July, police arrived at Miss Eldridge's home and confiscated her passports. Two days later she was issued with a court summons.
The High Court ruling means that if Miss Eldridge loses her appeal next week she must return to Tenerife or face being extradited. Once there, she will be interviewed by the Spanish authorities and a civil court will decide who has full custody of Lorena.
Lorena, who attends Camps Hill Community Primary School in Stevenage, suffers from a serious heart condition - supraventricular tachycardia - that makes the heart beat faster and requires regular hospital check-ups and medication. Miss Eldridge said: "Since we came back Lorena is a much happier child, with all her relatives and friends around her. She's come out of her shell and she's happy. She has no family network out there."
She added: "The High Court is prepared to put me there with nowhere to live and no job." But under the Hague Convention, the UK is obliged to ensure British citizens comply with demands from courts in other EU countries.
Miss Eldridge, who will be representing herself at the appeal, sobbed: "Samuel wants to get custody of my daughter. He's going to try to take her away from me and I'm so scared. I have been with her from the moment she was born. I'm scared, frightened, devastated. I don't know what's going to happen next.