Two men will be extradited to Queensland to face allegations that they are part of a group organising parental child abductions.
- Police said the group allegedly aimed to help women abduct and hide their children
- They said 10 children had been safely returned home after being abducted
- AFP Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz said more people may have been involved without knowing it
William Russel Massingham Pridgeon, 64, and Patrick Finbar McGrarry O’Dea, 63, had charges against them in NSW dropped in Grafton Local Court on Thursday.
The criminal charges laid against the men included child stealing, conspiracy to defeat justice and stalking, according to the AFP.
Bail was denied for both men, who will be extradited to Queensland where they will face Brisbane Magistrate’s court on Friday.
The men were arrested during raids by Australian Federal Police investigators across the country, including Dubbo and Grafton in NSW, Townsville in Queensland, and various locations in Perth.
Dr Pridgeon is accused of being the key financier and organiser of efforts to help two women abduct their children and hide them from authorities.
Mr O’Dea is alleged to have helped in getting money to the women involved in the abductions and portraying the fathers as child abusers on social media.
Police said during their two-year investigation, 10 children had been safely returned after being abducted. Five of them are linked to this particular group, police said.
The AFP’s Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz said the intention of the “well-resourced” and “organised” group was “not to protect” children.
“Not agreeing to a [family] court decision is not an excuse for engaging in this vigilante behaviour,” Assistant Commissioner Platz said.
“The continual movement of children, the change in their identity, the change in their location, the change in their appearances, the isolation for lengthy periods of time, has been shown to cause impacts that are long lasting for children.
“We believe this group has sought assistance from other people — some who may be unaware of their involvement … so we are urging anyone with any knowledge about these activities to come forward to the AFP”.
An 83-year-old man was also arrested in Townsville and charged over his alleged involvement.
The matter was mentioned briefly in the Townsville Magistrates Court today.
The man is subject to strict bail conditions including surrendering his passport, having no contact with 36 named people, and reporting to police three times a week.
A prosecution notice has also been served to a 78-year-old Perth woman regarding conspiracy to defeat justice over her alleged involvement in the plot.
A sailing boat was also searched.