Grandmother jailed as daughter remains on the run with three-year-old son
- Credit: Archant
THE grandmother of missing Ethan Williams and her boyfriend have been jailed for contempt of court after lying about the toddler’s disappearance.
Judge Stephen Wildblood at Bristol Crown Court said he ‘could not possibly’ avoid imposing a prison sentence on Louise Minnock, aged 52, and Andrew Butt, aged 56.
Minnock’s daughter, Rebecca Minnock, aged 35, fled her home in Highbridge with three-year-old Ethan two weeks ago.
The pair vanished on the day Miss Minnock was due to hand her only child over to his father, Roger Williams, following a court order.
She has defied orders by Judge Wildblood to come forward, as well as direct appeals from police and family members appearing before the courts.
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Minnock and Butt were jailed for 10 and 28 days respectively for lying to police and withholding ‘crucial’ information which would find Ethan.
Judge Wildblood told Butt: “Yesterday (Thursday) I said that I was in no doubt that you know precisely where Rebecca Minnock and Ethan Williams went that day because you conveyed them both to their destination in your motor car that morning.
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“Today you have admitted taking mother and child to Cheltenham but you have continued to lie about where in Cheltenham you took them.
“You know how important it is that Ethan and Rebecca Minnock are found. They cannot remain in hiding for ever and you know that they will found in the very near future.
“In the meantime Ethan is not receiving the stability and care that he should. Further, you know how serious it is that orders have been made for Ethan to live with his father and that those orders are being thwarted by Rebecca’s deliberate disobedience, a disobedience that you have assisted.
“You are also well aware of the injustice that is being occasioned to Roger Williams, Ethan’s father, and the consequent hardship that is being caused to him and others.”
Butt was found to be in contempt of court during his evidence yesterday and asked to be sworn back into the witness box to change his account today.
The long-distance lorry driver swore an oath on the Bible before admitting he had been helped Miss Minnock flee with Ethan.
He met Miss Minnock the night before her disappearance and the pair hatched a plot for her to flee with her son instead of attending a family court hearing.
“She said ‘I’ve got no choice’,” he told the court.
Butt collected Miss Minnock and Ethan on May 27 and drove them to the Asda store in Highbridge where she withdrew £300 at 8.17am.
He claims to have dropped Miss Minnock and Ethan at a junction in Whaddon Road in Cheltenham without knowing where they were going next.
The judge said: “You have deliberately withheld a vital piece of the investigative jigsaw. You did so because you know that that piece of the jigsaw would be of material assistance in finding them.
The court heard Butt told police: “Me and my family would all rather do 10 years in prison rather than tell you where they are.”
Minnock previously told the court she had no idea where her daughter went and only realised she was missing when police arrived at her home.
But Butt revealed he had informed her hours after he had taken Miss Minnock and Ethan to Cheltenham - before she was quizzed by police searching for the boy.
The judge said: “You knew that a particular focus of the inquiry on that day related to where Rebecca and Ethan had gone on May 27.
“You only revealed your knowledge that Rebecca and Louise went to Cheltenham that day when forced to do so by the evidence of Mr Butt. Otherwise you would not have done so.”
The judge said Mrs Minnock had acted in ‘persistent breach’ of a collection order issued by him for Ethan and had shown ‘no regard for it at all’.
“That is a flagrant disobedience to the court, a contemptuous denial of the rights of the child and of the father,” the judge added.
In mitigation, Butt was described as a working man who had apologised for his contempt and attempted to put it right.
Minnock was said to be in ill-health and heavily affected by the custody battle and stress of her missing daughter and grandson.
She told the judge: “I’m sorry judge, I was very scared. I just want my daughter home.
“This has taken any bit of strength I have got left, I am about to break down from it all.
“I think my daughter will be home soon. Like you said, she can’t run forever, she needs money. I can’t get her any myself.
“She will have to come home and face it. It think it is the best thing for her to do because everyone has had enough.
“I miss my daughter. I used to see my grandson every day. I miss them.”
Police described Miss Minnock as 5ft 3ins tall and of medium build, with dark, wavy shoulder-length hair. Ethan is of small build with blond hair and blue eyes.
Ethan, who was born on January 25 2012, has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013.
A custody battle began the next month. During the May 27 hearing this year, a judge said Ethan should live with Mr Williams and have supervised contact with his mother.
There have been potential sightings of Miss Minnock in Cheltenham and the Birmingham area since her disappearance.
Earlier, Detective Chief Inspector Marie Wright, of Avon and Somerset Police, made a direct appeal to Miss Minnock.
He said: “Please can you get in touch one way or another and let’s start talking.
“We know you are looking after Ethan, we know he’s safe and well, but you cannot keep on hiding forever, Becky.
“Please get in touch - we really want to help you. .”
Miss Minnock has contacted a number of newspapers to say she fled because she felt ‘trapped’ and while she has thought about giving herself up, each time she looks at her son she thinks she “can’t do that”.
She called The Sun earlier this week and has since contacted the Daily Mail, insisting that she and her son are ‘doing really well’.
The mother-of-one said she knows what she has done is wrong and realises she cannot stay in hiding forever.
She told the Mail: “I’m very realistic, I know I will be caught and he’ll be taken from me.”
Copy provided by the Press Association.