On-The-Run Mother 'Felt Trapped'

The mother at the centre of a custody battle who is on the run with her three-year-old son has broken her silence, saying she left with him because she felt "trapped".

Rebecca Minnock, 35, fled her home in Highbridge, Somerset, with son Ethan two weeks ago following a court order that he should live with his father, Roger Williams.

The Sun posted extracts of a telephone interview with Miss Minnock in which she said she feared leaving her son.

She said: "I just lost all trust and faith in the system completely. I just couldn't bear to leave my son. I just felt trapped.

"I know I'm going to be in a huge, huge amount of trouble. I've even got family members into trouble but it's my son and I need to put him first over myself or anybody else."

Miss Minnock insisted she and her son are both "absolutely fine" and "very happy", adding that they have money, food and toys and are just missing their family.

The newspaper said she contacted them from a withheld number and unknown location, and refused to say where she was.

Police said yesterday there had been reported sightings of the pair in Cheltenham and Birmingham.

Miss Minnock's comments come after members of her family were arrested in connection with the disappearance.

Miss Minnock's mother Louise's ex-partner, Andrew Butt, will appear at Bristol Crown Court today to answer questions about the disappearance.

Police previously appealed for help tracing the mother and child but could not reveal the circumstances behind their disappearance due to reporting restrictions.

But on Tuesday, in a highly unusual step, Judge Stephen Wildblood QC allowed the full facts to be reported to help find Ethan and reunite him with his father.

The judge had Miss Minnock's mother Louise Minnock, brother Marvin Shaw and sister Limmie Shaw arrested and taken before Bristol Crown Court to give evidence.

All three family members were released after swearing they did not know where Miss Minnock was and did not have any information which could lead to her and Ethan.

Judge Wildblood said he remained "deeply suspicious" they were withholding crucial details and warned further friends and family could also be arrested and interrogated.

At the hearing on Tuesday, Mrs Minnock confirmed Mr Butt owned a black Ford Focus and gave her and her daughter lifts as they do not drive.

The court heard Miss Minnock was seen withdrawing cash at Asda in Highbridge at 8.17am on the day of her disappearance, before she was driven away in a black Ford Focus towards Cheltenham, where she has family.

Miss Minnock was last seen at Musgrove Park Hospital on May 26 and was due to attend a family court hearing in Bristol at 9am the following morning.

She did not attend the hearing and vanished with Ethan but later contacted Mr Shaw from a withheld number stating they were "safe and well".

Police described Miss Minnock as 5ft 3in tall and of medium build, with dark, wavy shoulder-length hair. Ethan is of small build with blond hair and blue eyes.

The boy, who was born on January 25 2012, has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013.

Legal proceedings started between the parents in March 2013 when Mr Williams applied for contact with his son.

Mrs Minnock, a mother of four, said her daughter had been due to attend the hearing in Bristol and was "very upset" about the outcome.

"She said she had had enough of being failed," Mrs Minnock said. "I said, 'You have to be strong'. She knew what was going to happen in court."

At the Bristol hearing, a district judge found Ethan had been exposed to "emotional harm" by his mother and should live with his father, with Miss Minnock allowed only supervised contact.

Mr Shaw said he had received three short phone calls from his sister, all from a withheld number and lasting a short time.

The judge told Mr Shaw: "They are, in effect, on the run. They can't claim benefits because, if they do, they will be found."