The child, a girl, was 4 1/2 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. She had lived in Germany all of her life. On 16 December 1996 the mother and her British partner took the girl to England.
The parents of the child were married but it was not the father who sought the return order but the maternal grandmother and the maternal step grandfather. The grandparents had no legal custody rights in respect of the girl. However, they had played a significant role in the care of the child, particularly in the fourteen months preceding the removal.
On 26 October 1996 the grandparents had commenced custody proceedings in the German courts, but this application was never served on the mother. On 18 December 1996 the grandparents obtained an interim custody order.