Somerset

Rebecca Minnock: Grandmother jailed over missing mum lies

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

A grandmother has been sentenced to 10 days in prison for lying in court about the disappearance of her daughter and three-year-old grandson.

Police are searching for Rebecca Minnock, who fled with her son Ethan to avoid a ruling that the boy should live with his father.

Her mother Louise, 52, was convicted of contempt of court for hiding the fact they were driven to Cheltenham.

The driver, Andrew Butt, was jailed for 28 days for contempt.

Earlier Butt, Louise Minnock's partner, told Judge Stephen Wildblood QC at Bristol Crown Court he had lied about his role in events.

'Obstructed inquiry'

He admitted driving Rebecca and Ethan from Highbridge, in Somerset, to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire on 27 May. That morning, a family court had ruled Ethan should live with his father, Roger Williams.

Butt claimed he did not know where Rebecca and Ethan had gone after he left them in Cheltenham.

But the judge told him he did not believe him and was satisfied both had committed "a serious contempt of court". He told Louise Minnock she knew her daughter and Ethan had been taken to Cheltenham but had "obstructed the inquiry" by withholding that information.

Image copyright BBC grab
Image caption The judge told Louise Minnock lying in court was very serious

During sentencing, Butt was told by the judge he could be released earlier if he chose to share more information.

The 56-year-old was also warned if he continued not to tell the truth about their whereabouts he could be given a further sentence.

After sentencing, Butt's solicitor, Iona Phillips read an appeal from her client to his former partner's daughter.

The statement read: "Becky, you need to seriously look at the situation. It's only going to get worse, not just for you, but for all of us.

"But there are some very good people who are helping support you. I have been with them today and I know.

"We have made our point. We have got our support. Come home."

The case against Butt centred around his car - a black Ford Focus - which was used to drive Ms Minnock and Ethan to Cheltenham on 27 May, the day they went missing.

Butt had denied driving them but changed his story in court on Friday.

He said Ms Minnock had asked him, the night before a family court hearing, to help her get away with Ethan.

She had withdrawn £300 at a cash point in Highbridge, Somerset, and Butt had dropped the two in Cheltenham, where Ms Minnock's aunt lives.

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Media captionPolice make appeal to missing mum

"Basically, the plan was to keep her away for as long as possible and to generate as much publicity as possible," Butt said.

"We felt we weren't getting anywhere. She said no-one was listening. I said: 'People will listen when you go missing'."

He said he did not know where the two were now and had not told the police what had happened because "I didn't want them to catch her."

"We didn't expect it to explode in the manner it has exploded."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Roger Williams, Ethan's father, says finding his son is his priority

Judge Wildblood said on Friday that Ms Minnock "should not see herself as being backed into a corner" and urged her to come forward with Ethan, adding: "Everything possible will be done to ensure that Ethan has an effective relationship with both of his parents."

He said the "immense strain" on Ms Minnock would "only increase with the passage of time".

The police chief leading the search has also issued a direct appeal to the mother to contact her to discuss "the best way to get you and Ethan back to some sort of normal life".

Ms Minnock has been engaged in a two-year legal battle with Ethan's father over contact with their son. In February, a district judge found she had fabricated allegations against Mr Williams in order to "frustrate contact" between him and Ethan

A social worker reported that Ethan was not "emotionally safe" with his mother. Ethan had been staying with his father four nights a week since February.

The day Ms Minnock disappeared with Ethan, a district judge ruled the boy should live with his father.

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