After 2 years of court proceedings, Karol Marmolejo lives with the anguish of the second kidnapping of Angelo, her 9-year-old son. His father, Rafael, is the perpetrator. Here is the story as told by the mother.
At age 24 and after finishing her degree in modern languages in Colombia, Karol decided to have a new experience, immigrating to Puente Genil, Spain, where she lived for 12 years.
At that time, she met Rafael through her brother, who studied a Higher Degree in Telecommunications with her at Puente Genil (Cordoba). He introduced them, since he has an apartment and Karol rented it, the relationship became closer and little by little, they started a serious relationship, from which their only son, Angelo, was born. She already had a son from a previous relationship, David.
The economic crisis in Spain worsened and Karol could not work as a teacher, since her degree was not approved in Spain. As a result, they decided to migrate to Bristol, England.
From then on, Karol and Rafael’s life became hard in the face of the challenges of adaptation and their reality changed.
In a conversation with The Prisma, Karol told her story of the incessant search for her youngest son.
When did the separation take place and for what reasons?
In December 2016, we decided to separate, after several years of living in Bristol and overcoming the difficulties of living in another country and learning another language. England became complicated, especially for Rafael who always wanted to return to Spain. For me it was a chance to live again and feel that there were still many things to do and that I could have control over my life, which I did not have in Spain. The opportunities of one were not those of the other.
When did you arrive in Bristol?
We came to Bristol in 2012. After several years of instability in our relationship, we decided that it was best to separate; we made the decision in Bristol in 2016.
Why did you go to live in Bristol?
We came to Bristol at the time the crisis began in Spain, to look for professional opportunities that were not available there.
What was the separation like?
It was a verbal agreement from couples therapy sessions. There we decided, in the presence of our therapist, that we would separate. Rafael would return to Spain, as was his wish, Angelo and I would continue living in Bristol. Rafael would see Angelo during the holidays and could decide to spend the holidays in Bristol or take the child to Spain or another place during that period. Rafael suggested postponing the legal divorce until 2017, arguing that it was better to wait since Angelo was only 6 years old.
What was the judge’s verdict?
We have been dealing with divorce proceedings and verdicts since 2017, which regulate family measures with respect to Angelo.
What has your relationship with Rafael been like since then?
After the separation, Rafael was calm and agreed with the decision. I kept telling him how the boy was doing and kept him updated on the things that were happening around us.
How is Rafael as a father?
Rafael treated the child as if he were a friend, he told him about his personal problems, without boundaries or respect for his mother.
Did he insist at some point that he wanted to keep the child with him?
How often was he seeing his son?
One weekend each month, for 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Where did he see his son?
On Saturdays, he would pick him up at the “City Academy” sports centre and leave him at “Grounded”.
On Sundays, he would pick him up and leave him in a family-orientated bar called “Grounded”.
There was a first instance when the father wanted to take the child. What happened?
As we had agreed in the first holiday period, Rafael came to Bristol in February 2017 and travelled to Spain with Angelo. After a few days, Rafael sent me a WhatsApp message saying that he was keeping the child with him because he would be better off and because of the weather in Spain. I insisted that he return the boy and started contacting the police to find out the legal procedures for his return. The police said that I could not do anything, since there were no legal documentation or orders in force to protect me legally.
I contacted the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit and filed an application, filling out a form with all the information and documents required to prove not only my parental relationship but also the description of the circumstances. After submitting the form and documentation, I had to wait for the process to be executed.
I requested a hearing at Bristol Court to execute an order for the immediate return of my son, which was issued a few days later. Due to the slowness of the bureaucratic processes and the refusal of Rafael and his family to allow communication, I was forced to hire a lawyer specialising in family law in Cordoba, who managed all the documents and initiated new procedures to expedite the return of Angelo to Bristol. It was the push from the Spanish lawyer that made recovering the child possible after the first kidnapping.
How is your relationship with Rafael’s family?
It is null, especially after Rafael took Angelo and they did not return him to me. I called their house and they did not even want to put him on the phone.
How is Angelo’s relationship with his father’s family?
I have always facilitated Angelo’s relationship with his father’s family; even after the first kidnapping, they had direct contact.
What happened on 2nd March?
Rafael had an arranged visit with the child from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm; he arrived at the sports centre to pick up the child after his football training and handed his identity documentation and passport to a third party who is always responsible for mediating the delivery and collection of the child.
Rafael took the boy by the hand and walked him to the entrance of a bike path, sat him on the bar of a bicycle and took him away. This is when the third party saw the child for the last time.
Minutes later, my friend handed me Rafael’s legal documents, because I had to pass them to another person who picks up the child in the afternoon. At 17:30, the third party called to inform me that the boy had not arrived. After calling, sending emails and contacting the child’s mentor in this custody process, I called the police to make the fact known.
When I called the police, they told me that protocol had to be followed. I told them it was not the first time and they told me that it was not risky, that he was with his father and that we had to wait. My friend also explained that it was the second time he was kidnapping him, we were in a custody process and the answer was still negative. It was the morning of the following Sunday when they allowed a poster to be placed informing of the boy’s disappearance. The police did not start looking or moving on it until 24 hours later.
Did Rafael change anything in his routine?
His manner towards the third party was very friendly, when it is usually very cold.
What have your efforts been to recover the child?
With the disappearance, I got in touch with the consulate of Spain in London, the consulate of Colombia in London, the Missing Persons pages, Facebook, the press and television in Spain and Bristol, in addition to executing legal actions in Bristol and Spain.
Have you ever communicated with your ex-husband during this time?
The Sunday after taking the child Rafael sent an email from the address where he agreed on visits, in which Angelo’s legal representative is also included, saying that the “boy is and will be fine.”
(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos privded by Karol Marmolejo