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A father who dared to hope

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A father who dared to hope

Post by kangdang on 10.09.10 16:53

After finding his abducted son, Ken Thompson wants to help other parents facing the same nightmare, writes Paola Totaro in Amsterdam.

KEN THOMPSON created a little ritual as he pedalled through Europe searching for his lost boy: 100 or so kilometres a day followed by a quiet dinner and two small beers as a reward.

Last night, ensconced in a small cafe off the Rembrandt Plein in old Amsterdam, Thompson ordered a really big beer and swallowed his first, unforgettable swig of relief.

Still dressed in a faded cycling jacket bearing Andrew's gap-toothed smile, the former NSW Deputy Fire Commissioner has yet to clap eyes on his little boy, although a reunion is probably just days away.

But now, reassured Andrew is alive and well, Thompson says he has one big remaining goal in life: ''I feel very strongly about the rights of children. I don't have a job to go to any more. But I do want to help other parents who have been through this understand that you don't have to give up.

''There are things you can do, things you can fight for. Human rights, the rights of children … people died to establish these rights. My child lost his. And I wasn't going to cop that.''

Thompson left his job earlier this year and has travelled 6500 kilometres with a toy firefighter on the back of his bike, his boy's favourite toy.

As the paperwork and legal processes grind through the system, he has time to remember with clarity the day that his wife, Melinda Stratton, began to act strangely, suddenly making serious, inexplicable accusations and expressing odd fears.

The couple had been happy, living together for five years, travelling through Europe for three months and overjoyed to find out they would be first-time parents in their 40s and early 50s. ''We were inseparable for a wonderful five years. When she changed it was a huge, huge shock. It was bordering on hostility. One day, she was white, you could see her knuckles were white. Something was happening inside her and she couldn't tell me what it was,'' Thompson said.

''A few times in the past, she exhibited terrible, inexplicable jealousies that came out of the blue. I always made excuses for them. I'd forget them, brush it away. I reckon that pattern would occur once a year. Then, in December, 2006 - it was the 6th - something terrible went wrong, but she wouldn't tell me what it was. She was angry, shut down … she just formed a belief that I had done something but then, I didn't know what.''

The Family Court has since issued orders that reflect doubts about the mother's psychological well-being. Thompson will not be drawn to comment on his wife's state of mind, insisting that despite the pain he has been through, he believes her to be a good person who honestly believed what she was doing was for the love of her child.

''When it got so bad that I couldn't get out of bed, I just thought that if I failed, too many people would be let down, would be watching me. I had so many doubts but every parent around the world who had had a child abducted [was] sending me emails, urging me on. When I thought 'I can't do this', I thought I had to go on for Andrew.''

Thompson began his cycling odyssey in Britain last May, meeting Madeleine McCann's mother, Kate, at the launch of International Missing Children's day. He pedalled through northern France, Belgium into Luxembourg and Germany, followed the Moselle river into Koblenz, down to Frankfurt and up into the Netherlands. He found himself in Amsterdam, where his son was already living unbeknownst to him, in June.

''I still don't know what school he was attending but it's possible that I could have been a few blocks away from where he was living. I had a feeling, knowing Melinda, that she would love this city and see it as a good and friendly place for her and a child.

''At the back of my mind, I felt that if I never found them, this was a city I would return to because I too love it.''

Last Sunday, an anonymous email sent by a Dutch woman who he believes was associated with his little boy's school turned his life upside down.

''I thought it was a hoax. The Australian authorities warned me they knew nothing and it was probably not true. I emailed her to say I wanted to believe her but she wouldn't say any more, just writing that the authorities would contact me. I couldn't bring myself to believe it was true,'' he said.

''It was also received on Father's Day and said 'Happy Father's day', and so the authorities thought it was a cruel hoax. I felt I needed more, to check it out more. She then contacted the Amsterdam police to tell them that I needed more certainty. That is when the email came from the Amsterdam police … and I even then thought that was a hoax. That is how cynical I have become. But it was true. And I still don't know who she is, although I hope very much to meet her … if it is a she.''

Thompson says Frankfurt - in June - was the worst time emotionally for him. ''Melinda and I had travelled through Europe when Andrew was nine months old. I had a feeling she was in Germany, she had lived in Frankfurt. I was going there, with lots of feelings, so many emotions, and I just couldn't get out of bed,'' he said.

''Then, when I was feeling so sorry for myself, a man I had never met before gave me a kick in the arse. I felt so low I stayed indoors for days but he said to me I had no choice, I just had to go on … a few days later, I just said 'I'm off. See you.' ''

Thompson concedes that in his last job he was a great planner, someone who knew and liked putting strategies into place, but the execution of this odyssey severely tested his skills. ''I met so many people that said I was helping them make known the loss of their child … I felt responsible, but I knew I couldn't stop. This is about Andrew for me. But it is also about the issue about international child abduction, about raising awareness of the loss of kids and parents who have lost hope and shouldn't lose hope.

''Oh, and there is a part of me that hasn't finished this trip … I would love to get over those Alps … and take Andrew with me.'

http://www.smh.com.au/world/a-father-who-dared-to-hope-20100910-154z8.html?autostart=1

Remarkable story, a man with true grit and determination and thankfully it seems as though it has paid off.

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Re: A father who dared to hope

Post by Rainbow on 10.09.10 17:09

Great he has got him back but he was taken by his mother wasnt he?

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Re: A father who dared to hope

Post by kangdang on 10.09.10 17:12

@Rainbow wrote:Great he has got him back but he was taken by his mother wasnt he?

Yes he was, not that this made his search for the lad any easier.

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Re: A father who dared to hope

Post by Judge Mental on 10.09.10 18:42

@Rainbow wrote:Great he has got him back but he was taken by his mother wasnt he?

@ Rainbow

One is sure that one need not reiterate the point that it almost always the parents or somebody known to the child in cases of abduction, rape, torture or any other abuse against a child.

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