The child, a girl, was aged 10 at the date of the alleged wrongful retention. Until then she had been living in Italy. The child’s mother was dead and she was cared for by the maternal grandmother at the request of the father who served as a Swiss guard at the Vatican.
In 1999 the father returned to Switzerland, without his daughter, to remarry. The grandmother then commenced custody proceedings in the local Italian court. She was accorded temporary custody and the father was given access during the forthcoming summer vacation. During his period of access the father took the child to Switzerland but he refused to return her at the end.
On 30 September 1999 the grandmother issued a return petition before a Swiss court, the Bezirksgericht Plessur. On 10 November 1999 the president of the court interviewed the child. On 13 January 2000 the court declined to order the return of the child. The grandmother appealed.