The 49-year-old helicopter pilot choked up, recalling the tightness in his chest, the shortness of breath, the panic that gripped him Oct. 20, 2016, when his son was abducted from the family home in Langley.That pilot is Demetri Urella of British Columbia. Did mysterious, black-clad strangers enter his home and make off with his child? Did they break down the door, grab the screaming two-year-old and run for a battered but running van parked on the curb?
No, nothing so Hollywood-inspired. The abductors were the little boy’s mother, aided and abetted by a judge and a system that makes child abduction – the denial to a child of a parent’s love – all too easy (Vancouver Sun, 4/7/19).
Urella’s (now ex-) wife, Beatriz Dominguez-Herrero, did what anyone can do. She went to a judge, claimed that Urella was abusive and, without a scintilla of evidence to back up the claim, was handed not only sole custody of Julian, but a restraining order against Urella. He wasn’t even there in court to defend himself, his presence being considered unnecessary due to the “special nature” of domestic violence allegations that, for some reason, are allowed to circumvent the most basic of due process rights.
That day, Provincial Court Judge Ellen Gordon granted Herrero a custody order for Julian and a one-year restraining order against Urella.
At the ex-parte proceedings, Gordon banned Urella from contacting his wife or son, attending any residence, workplace or educational facility connected with them, and ordered police to remove him if he did. She also prohibited him from possessing weapons.Yes, with nothing more to go on than an affidavit signed by Herrero, Judge Gordon prohibited Urella from doing all those thingsfor a year! Urella described Herrero’s proffer to the court as “no proof‚ no pictures of abuse, no doctor reports, no neighbour reports, no nothing, just a four-page because-I-say-so.” On that basis, a child was deprived of its father and everything he had known for over eight months.
And those aren’t just the conclusions of an understandably distraught father. They’re the explicit findings of a second judge, Provincial Judge Deanne Gaffer, who held a hearing at which, oddly enough, Herrero appeared via telephone from parts unknown.
Herrero had little credibility, the judge concluded, and the evidence — banking records, travel documents, more than 600 pages of social media messages featuring “loving nicknames,” and numerous family photographs — completely contradicted her portrait of Urella.
Gaffer decided Gordon had been misled: “By concealing, withholding and fabricating material information, I find that Ms. Herrero obtained the October 18th orders by fraud … those orders were invalid at the time they were pronounced. … Herrero has unlawfully removed Julian from B.C.”Herrero had committed fraud on the court. She’d lied outright in order to commit the crime of child kidnapping. But the system that she defrauded all but begs aggrieved spouses to do exactly that. By suspending the requirement of notice and an opportunity to be heard for the target of the DV action, it announces loudly and clearly that it’s open for business to anyone, irrespective of whether they tell the truth or lie.
And, in Herrero’s case, it still does. Over the period of eight months, Herrero fled with Julian, first to her native Spain, then to Colombia and finally to Mexico. Eventually, her whereabouts there were discovered and the Mexican police captured and returned the child to his father in Canada.
But what of Herrero? She actually returned briefly to Canada, a fact well known to authorities there.
Nearly four months later, on Sept. 21, Herrero, too, unbelievably returned to B.C.
Despite warnings from the RCMP, the Border Services Agency allowed her and her 22-year-old son from a previous relationship into Canada on a 14-day visa.
“We don’t know what they did, but then they left,” Urella said. “There was an opportunity to grab her, but she was not detained.”That’s because, unbelievably, provincial and national law-enforcement authorities hadn’t charged her with any form of wrongdoing.
RCMP Const. Keith Wilson told Urella in a December 2017 email that he pleaded with Crown prosecutor Kimberly Wendel that the strange visit “further reinforced the importance of laying these charges at the earliest convenience.”
He repeated that recommendation in a supplemental report to Wendel in June 2018…
More than a year ago, [Urella’s] lawyer Jeff Scouten, of Hakemi & Ridgedale LLP, also implored Wendel to approve charges to prevent further harm and ensure Herrero’s international movements triggered warnings…Incredibly, Wendel refused. Having committed a fraud on the court, having illegally abducted a little boy, having therefore abused that child, having illegally denied parental rights to the boy’s father, having stolen $100,000 and having fled prosecution, nothing will be done to Herrero. There will be no consequences for her actions. None.
Meanwhile, Demetri Urella raises the important question.
“I can’t help thinking that if I had done this, I would be in jail — any man would be in jail,” he complained. “There’s no consequence for what she did.”
Changes were needed, he insisted.
“I think we’d all like to see less gender bias,” Urella said. “I think if I went into that courthouse with a four-page affidavit and no proof‚ no pictures of abuse, no doctor reports, no neighbour reports, no nothing, just a four-page because-I-say-so, as a man? Do you think I would have got those orders? I don’t think so. And I think if I were to kidnap my kid and went all over Europe and Colombia, I think I would be in jail. What do you bet?”