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How Aussie dad beat Swedish police to find kidnapped sons

James Savage · 28 Oct 2009, 18:26

Published: 28 Oct 2009 18:26 GMT+01:00

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It's many divorced parents' nightmare: the kids go on a visit to the other parent, only to disappear off the face of the earth.

Some 95 Swedish children are currently believed to be kidnapped, in most cases by a parent or close family member. Many of the children are the product of a marriage between a Swede and a foreigner. Of all kidnapped Swedish children, 33 are thought to be held in Sweden and 62 abroad. In 60 percent of cases, the kidnapper is the mother.

In many cases, getting help from the police is an uphill struggle.

Australian George Pesor knows this only too well. His Swedish ex-wife failed to return their two sons back to Australia after they had been on a visit to Sweden. This despite the fact that Pesor had sole custody and his ex-wife only visiting rights.

Ingrid Carlqvist, a Swedish journalist who has written a book about Pesor's case, says Swedish society is unfairly biased against fathers:

"Many mothers have come to believe that they are best for the children, even when a court has given full custody to the father. The mothers get support from the kvinnojourer [Sweden's network of battered women shelters], the feminist movement, friends and families. Even the media write stories sympathetic to the mother, despite the fact that she's the criminal."

Pesor found this to his cost. Few media outlets initially took up his case, and it was only through blogging together with Carlqvist that he could generate some interest. Yet six months after his sons disappeared, the police investigation had turned up few leads. Pesor was forced to get on a plane to Sweden and take control of the situation. Amazingly, he had tracked down his children within a week.

Pesor's troubles began last September when a court in Melbourne ordered that his sons Oliver, 11 and Nicholas, 10, must visit their mother in Sweden. The visit was ordered to go ahead despite the fact that the mother had told the boys on the phone that she would not let them go back to Australia again. She had also made numerous unsubstantiated child abuse allegations against Pesor's brother-in-law.

Pesor let the boys go to Sweden, despite fearing that they wouldn't come back. When he contacted airline KLM on October 9th to make sure they had boarded, his worst fears were confirmed - the airline computers had registered his sons as no-shows. He immediately sought a court order in Australia to get Oliver and Nicholas back. The order was granted and Swedish authorities agreed to implement it, in accordance with the Hague Convention, the international agreement covering international custody disputes.

The problem was that nobody knew where the children were.

"I was in continuous contact with the police in Australia and Sweden, as well as in Finland, Belgium and Germany - after all, we didn't even know if they were still in the country," he told The Local.

"It was a bureaucratic and slow process. On a personal level, police officers took this seriously, but after a couple of months I realised it was not a high priority and they were really just paying lip service."

"Eventually I realised that this is not like it is on TV."

Frustratingly, the police failed to follow up apparently vital clues. Pesor started a blog together with Ingrid Carlqvist, who had taken an interest in the case. They developed strong suspicions that one of the people making comments on the blog was the mother and one of the other commenters actually identified herself as the mother's sister.

"The police refused to trace their IP addresses. They said it could have been anybody, and told me the 2,000 kronor cost of carrying out the searches was more than they could afford."

This was the final straw - Pesor decided to take matters into his own hands: "I came to Sweden, slept in the car and started surveillance."

Pesor met with police chiefs and told them he thought the boys' grandparents' house should be put under observation. If they couldn't do it, he'd do it himself, he said. He parked close to the house and watched.

"It was odd - the blinds were closed the whole time. I bought a listening device so that I could hear what was going on inside. The very first window I listened at I could hear the boys and their mother. The adrenalin was going at 100 miles an hour."

Pesor called the lead detective on the case, and within a couple of hours Pesor's sons were being led out of the house by police officers. Pesor, who was parked down the street, stood on the roof of his car to get a better view of events:

"When I saw Oliver leave the house I just jumped off the car." They were reunited a few hours later at a police station in Eskilstuna, where the boys were interviewed by police and social workers. Later that night, father and sons were told they were free to go back to Australia.

Story continues below…

Carlqvist says she hopes her book about the case will change attitudes:

"Things are rarely black and white - there are horrible fathers, but also awful mothers. Whoever we are we have to follow the law and the courts' decisions."

The boys' mother was convicted in July of arbitrary conduct with a child (Swe: 'egenmäktighet med barn') and sentenced to ten months in jail. She was also told to pay 140,000 kronor ($17,700) in compensation to the boys and their father.

Pesor is now happily reunited with his sons, but with an increasing number of international marriages, cases like his seem set to become more frequent.

Carlqvist's book about Pesor, 'Inte Utan Mina Söner,' ('Not Without my Sons') is published by Blue Publishing.

Some names in this article have been changed.

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:57 October 28, 2009 by peropaco
The police are really good at catching speeding motorist.
21:34 October 28, 2009 by Aussie_Downunder
Go the Aussie
22:19 October 28, 2009 by badgerknox
I bet if the father had kidnapped the children the police would have actually tried to find them. This case is very similar to one happening in Japan right now: the mother ran off with the children, despite a court awarding custody to the father, yet the father is the one the Japanese police arrested.
10:52 October 29, 2009 by sanjeewapattiwila
Honestly I feel very sorry about this incedent. Even though the seperation is very common and accepted in the society like this, it is the innocent children who get cought to this struggle between their parents. What ever says, both parents have 50/50 right over their children. These young boys must need the love of their mother and father both not from only one. Think about you innocent children before making the decision to seperate.
12:50 October 29, 2009 by Random Guy
......the police are too busy going after those who file share! now that is a REAL crime.
13:36 October 29, 2009 by Ugly A
Thank you for publishing this.
16:12 October 29, 2009 by DeepFriedTwinky
Go Aussie!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, go job. Sounds like the police did a crappy job. Hey, what about the people that helped her, they knew she was wanted? No punishment for those people?
16:23 October 29, 2009 by Frobobbles
I absolutely adored this sentence: "there are horrible fathers, but also awful mothers." :P
17:05 October 29, 2009 by Gwrhyr
Sounds like the police were on the mother's side, or "Sweden's side" as they may have thought about it... they probably figured the children would be better off in Sweden and didn't feel motivated to solve the case because of that.
18:27 October 29, 2009 by "green Swede"
refused to trace the ip address...but download an old movie!!!!jesus. the father does all the work and the cops make the collar,why is it again the swedish police are being ridiculed so much????
07:53 October 30, 2009 by lantis
I'm relieved to hear the father wasn't arrested for invasion of privacy for having done his own stake-out.
08:52 October 30, 2009 by Amerikansk_Mike
Yeah, we all know that the best place for anyone is Sweden. Where else can children grow up with rubber boots, green grass, blue sky and rainbows....hahahaha. Really though, quite another SAD view of the police in this country.
09:07 October 30, 2009 by Benzed
Beware the she-wolf.
09:43 October 30, 2009 by karex
Many countries have an unfair bias in these cases, favoring the mothers quite often, perticularly if the children involved are young. If Australia is no exception to this phenomena, the fact that she lost custody can speak volumes as to her fitness for retaining the children. Moreover, her actions only serve to strengthen this suspicion: they seem selfish with no regard for the children. If there is any substance to her allegations about the brother-in-law, what mother would opt to leave the country and leave her children defenseless against such abuse?
11:06 October 30, 2009 by Osokin

"I bet if the father had kidnapped the children the police would have actually tried to find them."

You betcha.
13:19 October 30, 2009 by square
I thought Keystone Cops were a ficitional lot, but seems they actually do exist in Sweden.
16:37 October 30, 2009 by John Joel
Another example of silent Swedish discrimination towards men & the refusal to act in anyway that may be viewed as negative towards women.

Pity the mother wasn´t in a speeding car or downloading a movie from Pirate Bay the police would have had her in minutes.
17:00 October 30, 2009 by eZee.se
@Random guy,

its harder to buy a judge in Sweden for these "non serious" crimes,

but filesharing music and movies is extremely serious so should be expedited and judges bought, then the judges for the appeal too have to be chosen carefully and bought then put in the right places to judge the appeal process.

Children, unfit mothers, desperate fathers... rapists with multiple victims, who gives a s**t? theres no money in that,

music and movies... now you're talking - and stronger more expedited laws are required.


11:13 October 31, 2009 by insect
So this is how it should have played.

Since Pesor suspected that the kids were at their grandparents' house. He should have called the police and tipped them that there was some illegal downloading of movies going on at that particular address (specifically from the Pirate Bay website). Then this bit of news would be about pirate bay instead.
14:42 October 31, 2009 by Soft Boiled
What is wrong with the justice system in sweden? Words fail me!
17:38 October 31, 2009 by svenskdod
Just wait and see what happens if Mona Sahlin gets into office, men will be cast out of high profile government jobs. Has anyone seen that horrible Cage film "The Wicker Man?"

Way to go Aussie!!! Practical common sense has once again out done the years of criminology that Police officers study.

I have a feeling that the Police in this situation were very apprehensive in taking on this case as: 1) they probably had no idea the legality here, and 2) To them maybe more importantly, they knew the interpretation that would have emerged in the Media, especially the likes of Aftonbladet. I can see the headlines now "Australian takes children away from their Swedish Mother."

I wonder if this story has been published the same (truthful) way in other mediums......
20:55 October 31, 2009 by justanotherexpat
It's not only Sweden that is pathetically biased towards women/mothers in instances like this. The UK is as bad, if not worse. At least in Sweden "personal information" is "public property", which makes tracing/tracking people a much easier task.

That said, it's yet another incident that highlights how few real rights (in the eyes of society) fathers/men have - personal experience confirms this.

It doesn't help that the vast majority of paedos/perverts are men - it means we are all demonised - especially in cases connected to children, even our own.
12:00 November 1, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
Yet another damning inditement against the laziness, stupidity and poor focus of Polisen
14:07 November 1, 2009 by alex1048
So what happens if the woman fails to pay 140 K ? Will she spend another 5 years in jail ?
16:10 November 1, 2009 by Thompsuleme
A great dad he is, staking out in his car for his kids while the cops have Kaffe in the warmth of their office.Shame on the polis. I bet they came in all macho with Swat or whatever just like after the heist was done... Always late as usual..
12:54 November 2, 2009 by Harbich_dach
Hmmm I'am an Australian living in Sweden atm,,, Moral of the story don't marry a Swedish Woman...:P
11:22 August 29, 2012 by lensart
Don't blame the police. Blame the Swedish court system. I was ordered to pay over 3000 kronor a month to my ex wife plus another 30000 in back child support to pay ostensibly for my daughter's riding lessons. My daughter who just turned 14, has been alienated by her mother from me for over a year and a half, even though we have shared custody. The courts were not interested in helping me re-establish a relationship with my child, but took no time awarding her mother, who lives with a very well off local business owner, 10% of my after tax salary, simply because I earn much more than she does. I cannot afford to give my other two children such an expensive hobby, so my ex offers them the same perks if they move in with her. Frankly, the police can't make justice in Sweden if it doesn't exist in the legal system.
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