The three children were aged 6, 5 and 4 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. They were born in Norway and had lived there their entire lives. The parents, both Somali nationals, were married and had joint rights of custody.
The parent’s relationship was clearly a troubled one. In 1994 the father was imprisoned for threatening a social worker. In June of that year he was wounded following an altercation with a fellow Somali. Following this incident the mother travelled alone to Ethiopia leaving the children in the care of the father’s sister. In July 1994 there was a further incident involving the father and the same Somali who had attacked him the previous month. This resulted in the death of the latter.
In March 1995 the father was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The mother returned to Norway when the Norwegian social services informed her that the father was in prison and that the sister was not coping with the children. From 1998 onwards the father was allowed out of prison on leave. During a period of leave in April 1999 he was accused of raping a Somali woman. An investigation took place but no charges were brought.
That same month the mother obtained passports for the children. To do this she forged the father’s signature on the application form. Having received the passports the mother immediately took the children to the United Kingdom. She informed the Norwegian social services and her lawyer in Norway that she intended to return in August 1999.
The mother did not return and the father initiated return proceedings.