A mother has been accused of kidnapping two of her four children after driving to their adoptive parents’ home in a white van while they were playing basketball.
The children’s disappearance in Sydney’s west on Saturday afternoon sparked a five-day manhunt, until police released a statement on Thursday saying they had been found “unharmed”.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal their mother – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was arrested and spent the night in police custody before appearing at Bankstown Local Court via video link on Friday.
She was charged with two counts of kidnapping/detaining a child to remove parental control and one count of driving with a disqualified license.
The mother-of-four was still wearing the frilly white tank top she was arrested in during her court appearance, as her elderly mother was visibly upset as she watched from the public gallery.
She listened intently as Magistrate Glenn Walsh read out her lengthy criminal record to the court and said more than 30 risks of harm had been reported in relation to the children – who had been known to police since 2009.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal their mother – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was arrested and spent the night in police custody before appearing in Bankstown Local Court via video link on Friday.
The woman’s elderly mother (pictured in court on Friday) was visibly upset as she watched from the public gallery.
They included allegations of neglect, inadequate supervision, unsafe conditions, parental substance abuse and physiological harm.
Magistrate Walsh further told the court that the mother had not accepted the impact of her lifestyle on her children.
He said the children were taken into state custody in August 2023 and were released on September 1.
About two weeks later, the judge said the mother contacted one of her children via text message and allegedly orchestrated their kidnapping from where they were staying.
She said caregivers observed the children playing basketball on September 16. When they checked again ten minutes later, the children were gone.
Magistrate Walsh said the mother “refused to help him find out where the children were”.
Five days later, police found the children with an adult man in a silver Jeep Cherokee, different from the white van they allegedly used to abduct the children.
All were taken to the police station, where the mother refused to participate in interrogation.
“There is no doubt that the aim was to flee, or to take them and keep them here – which would have exposed her and the children,” Magistrate Walsh told the court.
“There can only be one logical reason, and that’s escape.”
He later told the court his criminal history included drug supply charges, traffic offences, domestic violence and a 12-month prison sentence for drug possession.
She was also on bail for driving with a suspended license and contravening an AVO when she allegedly kidnapped her children on Saturday.
The mother’s legal aid lawyer told the court she intended to plead not guilty and argued for her release on bail. The police prosecutor argued that she should remain incarcerated.
Her lawyer told the court she was the primary caregiver for her mother, who suffers from various health problems and does not speak English fluently.
It was also argued that she had previously been in a long-term domestic abusive relationship and was suffering from untreated mental health problems as a result.
The woman’s mother (pictured) listened as the judge read out her daughter’s lengthy criminal record for the court.
He called the situation “sad” because the children’s caregivers had no biological connection to the children, and stressed that she did not harm the children while they were allegedly under his custody.
The lawyer said there were now apprehended violence orders preventing the mother from having any contact with her children, and suggested a number of bail conditions she would have to follow.
However, the police prosecutor described the Crown’s case as “very strong”, partly because of mobile phone records which allegedly indicated she was planning to abduct the children.
“The phone records show that the defendant (allegedly) goes so far as to tell the children what to say in case they are arrested,” he said.
“It’s a really strong case.”
Although the kidnapping charges only relate to her two youngest children, the prosecution said police are continuing to investigate and more charges could be brought against her two older children.
“These are very serious offenses which attack the heart of the justice system,” he told the court.
He said the state made the decision to take his children away from him for a reason, and said it was not a decision taken lightly.
Magistrate Glenn Walsh rejected his application for bail and said the prosecution’s case appeared strong.
“There is evidence that the children were transported, the recent possession of the children was taken and the chain of (texts),” he told the court.
“This is an overwhelming case for the Crown and she will likely be found guilty.”
The mother will next appear at Burwood Local Court in November.