Mother, 28, who fled abroad with her toddler son WINS custody battle

Mother, 28, who fled abroad with her toddler son WINS custody battle – and speaks of her desperation after returning to Britain

  • Ellie Yarrow-Sanders vanished with Olly in 2018, triggering a hunt by police
  • ‘At the time I genuinely believed he was going to be taken – and that was the end, I would say, of my rational thinking,’ she said, having returned to the UK 
  • The 28-year-old from Basildon has returned to Britain and is living with her son 

A mother who fled abroad with her toddler son during a bitter custody fight has won a battle for him to live with her.

Ellie Yarrow-Sanders vanished with Olly in 2018, triggering a hunt by police and court officials.

At one point, a High Court judge lifted reporting restrictions on the case in the family courts and used Twitter to appeal to her to come home.

Now it has emerged that the 28-year-old from Basildon, Essex, has returned to Britain and is living with her six-year-old in a secret location.

After a 16-month fight at the family court in Chelmsford – which cannot be detailed because of reporting restrictions – a judge has ruled that Olly can live with his mother and spend time with his father Patrick Sheridan.

In her first interview after spending eight months in hiding, Miss Yarrow-Sanders told Channel 4’s Dispatches why she left the country.

‘It was just desperation really,’ she said. ‘A lawyer that I had representing me said, ”If we cannot come to an agreement and co-parent, it will lead to care proceedings and you will lose him.”

‘At the time I genuinely believed he was going to be taken – and that was the end, I would say, of my rational thinking.’ She now believes that there should be more ‘transparency’ in family courts.

Ellie Yarrow-Sanders vanished with Olly in 2018, triggering a hunt by police and court officials 

‘I have no objections to any of my evidence being shown to the world,’ she said. ‘Kids Google themselves, don’t they? Kids Google people that they know.

‘You Google my name and I’m a child abductor. Why should I not be allowed to set the record straight? The overwhelming obstruction is the lack of transparency – it’s a system that is designed for secrecy, I suppose.’

It is now three years since Miss Yarrow-Sanders, who once ran a cafe with her mother Donna, went on the run with her son just weeks before a ‘critical’ hearing at the family court with her former partner, a 48-year-old civil engineer.

Dad: Patrick Sheridan and Olly

In the run-up to Christmas 2018, when she had reportedly failed to use her mobile phone or bank account for five months, Mr Justice Williams – who was overseeing the case in the family courts – made Olly a ward of court and voiced his ‘grave concern’ for his welfare. He issued a direct plea to Miss Yarrow-Sanders on the Judicial Office Twitter account using the hashtag #comehomeolly. In a statement released by his legal team at the time, Mr Sheridan said: ‘I’m so desperately worried about my son and just want him home.

‘My message to Ellie is simple, ‘Please come back so that we can see Olly’s all right.’ That’s all I want.

‘We are trying everything to find Olly, but it is clear that major steps have been taken to conceal where he is. He’s been gone for months now and I miss him every single day.

‘It’s just been a living nightmare no parent should have to go through and I am sick with worry. The run-up to Christmas has been unbearable for us this year, knowing we might not get to see him, but I live in hope every day that we will find him.’

Afterwards Miss Yarrow-Sanders sent a letter to her mother Donna and sister Maddie saying: ‘This is the only thing I could do for Olly to have any semblance of a childhood with his mum.

‘I’m really sorry to leave you all but we have no other choice and I promise we will be OK. I will never let any harm come to Olly. I love my son endlessly.’

n Dispatches: Torn Apart: Family Courts Uncovered is on Channel 4 at 10pm tomorrow.

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