A couple accused of kidnapping their grandson in the US and bringing him to Ireland will learn today if they are to be extradited to face charges by the American authorities.
Tim and Ethel Blake, both 60, were locked in an international tug-of-love battle with their daughter Serena Benwell when they took her then nine-year-old boy from his new home in Winthrop Harbour, north of Chicago in July 2004.
The young boy, Dylan, had previously lived with his grandparents in Ireland but was taken by his mother when she moved to the States to marry a US naval officer.
The Blakes, from Lower Midleton Street in Cobh, Co Cork, are facing a maximum 30-year prison sentence for the alleged offence if convicted in Illinois, where they are wanted to stand trial for aggravated kidnapping.
The child, who is now 12, returned to live in the US with his mother, stepfather, three older brothers and younger sister in November 2004 after his mother invoked the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
During the extradition hearing at Dublin’s High Court earlier this month, Mrs Benwell said in an affidavit her father claimed to be dying while on a visit to her in July 2004.
He asked if both he and his wife could spend some time with Dylan alone at the hotel they were staying at before they returned home. The daughter agreed on the condition they gave her their passports.
The passports later turned out to be duplicates and when she returned to the hotel she found her parents had taken the boy with them and boarded a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to London and onto Ireland.
Pensioner Mr Blake provided medical reports to the court showing he had cancer of the blood, heart problems and diabetes.
His doctor feared he would not be emotionally able to survive the US penal system, stating it would be “extremely unwise” to extradite him.
Medical reports for Mrs Blake, a housewife, showed she was under the care of a psychiatrist for anxiety and depression. Dr Harry Kelleher said he was concerned she could kill herself if incarcerated.
Defence barrister Colman Fitzgerald told the court that relations between the Blakes and their daughter had now improved significantly, with weekly telephone contact.
Mrs Benwell had asked the US authorities to drop the charges, he told the hearing.
Mr Justice Michael Peart will today rule on whether the Blakes must be sent to the US to face charges.