Tonight, the Portuguese authorities brought an end to the parental kidnapping of three children of Belgian nationality, who went missing on January 4th in the town of Deurne, Anvers. The three girls, Godelieve, Gerda and Truke Otto, aged respectively 14, 10 and 7, had been taken away by their father, Cornelis Otto, against the wishes of their mother, Marie Castermans.
Yesterday afternoon, the Child Support Institute (IAC – Instituto de Apoio à Criança), Portuguese organisation responsible for cases of missing or at risk children, gave out a national alert asking for help in urgently locating the three Belgian children.
The organisation made the telephone number 116000 available to possible witnesses, the SOS line for missing children.
In January, a few days after their abduction, Cornelis Otto, aged 39, and the three children had been seen in Montijo, begging in the streets of the town. The local police - PSP - had even got as far as identifying the father without however arresting him, because the Belgian authorities had not issued an international arrest warrant. After this warrant was issued, on August 20th, the PJ intensified their search.
The Portuguese authorities worked in collaboration with the federal police and the organisation, "Child Focus."
According to the Belgian authorities, the children, accompanied by their father, crossed Europe in a white Peugeot Partner, registration XXH-802 and a caravan registeration YBE-6882. During their journey, the children and their father stayed in camp sites for short periods of time, having as their only means of subsistence begging, notably playing a barrel organ.
Editor's note: I guess this shows that the 116000 emergency call system for alerts in missing children cases, which was set up some time ago, does actually work and that police forces across Europe are already organised for collaboration. If all EU countries would now adopt the 116 numbers and set up their own emergency call systems, there would be no need to be talking about an American Amber Alert type system.