Somerset

Mother goes missing with son after court custody ruling

Rebecca Minnock and Ethan Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Miss Minnock and Ethan disappeared two weeks ago

A three-year-old boy and his mother have gone missing after a court ruled the boy should live with his father.

Rebecca Minnock, 35, and son Ethan disappeared from their home in Highbridge, Somerset.

A judge has taken the unusual step of lifting reporting restrictions in an effort to aid the search for the pair, who went missing two weeks ago.

Miss Minnock's brother, sister and mother were arrested on Sunday, accused of withholding information.

Marvin Shaw, Limmie Shaw and Louise Minnock were warned by Judge Stephen Wildblood QC they "must be entirely candid about any information that they have".

'Suspicions'

Speaking at Bristol Crown Court, he said: "We need to make sure this child is found.

"I have suspicions that you know more.

"If there is more to be learnt, it will be. You need to be aware of that."

Image caption Miss Minnock's family was told they must inform police immediately if they received information about Ethan's whereabouts by a judge at Bristol Crown Court

He instructed the three relatives to inform police immediately if they received information about Ethan's location.

Miss Minnock is about 5ft 3ins tall, of medium build, with dark wavy shoulder-length hair, police said.

Ethan has blond hair and blue eyes.

He has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013, the court heard.

A month later, his father Roger Williams applied for contact with him.

'Panicked'

On 27 May this year, a district judge ruled Ethan should live with his father after finding Miss Minnock had made false allegations and obstructed contact between father and son.

The court heard Miss Minnock, who does not drive, was seen in Highbridge that day getting into a black Ford Focus being driven towards Cheltenham, where she has relatives.

Despite a police investigation and campaign by Ethan's father, they have not been found.

Mrs Minnock told the court her daughter had been frightened ahead of the court hearing two weeks ago: "I think she has panicked and couldn't take it."

Mr Shaw, also from Highbridge, told the court he did not know where his sister was but she had telephoned him to say she and Ethan were "safe and well".

He said he believed the court order was a "serious injustice" and his sister had been "failed" by the authorities.

The judge told Mr Shaw: "They are, in effect, on the run. They can't claim benefits because if they do they will be found."

He released the three from the court at the conclusion of the hearing saying he was "not satisfied" he could commit them for contempt of court based on the evidence he had heard.

But he said further hearings were likely to take place, possibly involving friends and family of Miss Minnock and Ethan.

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