Police Seek Public's Help in Locating Abducted 23-month-old Girl
Paul Legall, The Hamilton Spectator
A distraught mother pleaded for the return of her young daughter
yesterday while her former husband sat in jail on abduction charges
and stubbornly refused to reveal the girl's whereabouts.
"I'm very terrified for my daughter," 39-year-old Deborah Bouchard
told The Hamilton Spectator outside a St. Catharines courtroom. "It's
absolutely horrible not knowing where she is. I just want my daughter
She asked that a picture of the 23-month-old girl be published in the
newspaper in the hope someone will recognize Emelie. She also hopes a
private investigator will come forward and donate a few hours to help
police in their search for Emelie, which could take them as far as
Quebec or British Columbia.
"I'm her primary caregiver. That in itself is abuse, to deprive her
of the person she trusts and depends on," Bouchard said. She's
worried the child won't be able to sleep or eat properly in a strange
She hasn't seen Emelie since Oct. 25 when her former husband, Eric
Bouchard, 35, of Smithville, took the child for a court-approved
weekend visit. The couple married in July 1999 and separated in
August last year. During the bitter court battle that followed, she
was granted custody of Emelie and her former husband was allowed
access to the child every second weekend and during the week when he
was working weekends.
After he failed to return the child on Oct. 28, Deborah obtained an
apprehension order that gave police the power to seize Emelie and
return her to her mother. By this time, Emelie had disappeared and
the father refused to say where she was, except to assure the mother
Emelie was in a "safe place."
In a telephone interview with The Spectator last week, he said he
kept the child for her own protection and would rather go to jail
than tell his former wife where she is.
"This is my last resort," he said. "I have no other way ... It is
very disgusting it has to come down to this."
He said he took the extreme measure because he wasn't getting fair
treatment in the family courts where he was fighting for full custody
of Emelie and Deborah's other daughter, Jenna, 8, from her previous
relationship with Wayne Allen.
Now living in Vancouver, Allen told The Spectator he endorses Eric
Bouchard's efforts to get both children and has flown in from British
Columbia several times to lend him support in court.
In the mid '90s, Allen was also involved in a high profile family
court battle with Deborah Grenier, as she was known then, over
custody of Jenna. During the proceedings, she was jailed five days
for contempt of court for refusing to let him see the child.
Yesterday, she said Allen owes her $ 47,000 in child support
payments, a figure he doesn't dispute.
Last week, Deborah -- who lives in Hamilton -- pulled Jenna from
school out of fear she might be abducted also.
Niagara police arrested Eric Bouchard Nov. 1 while he was working the
evening shift at Cascade Precision, a car parts manufacturing plant
He was charged with parental abduction and contravening a court order
for not returning Emelie to her mother after the weekend visit. In a
press release this week, police requested the public's help in
finding Emelie who is described as about three feet tall, with blond
hair and blue eyes.
"Her whereabouts are unknown at this time. Police have received
information Bouchard has family in Quebec and friends in British
Columbia," Niagara Detective Neal Orlando stated.
During a telephone call from the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold
on Monday, Bouchard showed no sign of backing down and refused to
reveal his daughter's whereabouts. He insisted she is in a safe place
where she is loved and properly cared for.
Through a video link from the jail, he made a brief appearance in the
St. Catharines court yesterday and was ordered to be brought back to
court in person today for a bail hearing. He has retained Toronto
lawyer Walter Fox to represent him.