‘I DON’T USUALLY BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACIES BUT ONE HAS TO SUSPECT UNDUE INFLUENCE’
Tug-of-love mum situation is just like Kafka, says MP
THE situation of Manchester tug-of-love mother Beth Alexander was described in the Commons this week as “Kafkaesque”.
And Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, declared: “I do not usually believe in conspiracies, but in this case the decisions that were taken were so strange that one has to suspect that undue influence and conspiracy were taking place.”
Appealing to David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, to intervene with the Austrian government because of the “scale of the injustice”, Mr Stringer said that what had happened to Beth “defies normal understanding.
“Authorities have taken decisions about her life and her children’s lives which are inexplicable and certainly unjust”.
Beth, formerly of Crumpsall, Manchester, where her parents still live, married Michael Schlesinger in October 2006. In May 2009 their twins Samuel and Benjamin were born in Vienna, where Beth still lives.
Describing the case as “a blight on the Austrian judicial system”, Mr Stringer said: “Brought to its bare bones, this case is about a violent father who has been violent towards the mother of his children and other members of the family and who has been given custody of two children.
“The children are clearly unhappy. They do not speak very well, and they are still in nappies beyond the age of four.
“He was given custody of them after exerting undue influence on the courts over a mother who is completely blameless.
“As a Member of this House for 16 years and a councillor for many years before, I have rarely come across a case of such injustice.”
Mr Stringer said Mr Schlesinger had become violent and abusive towards his wife and attempted to have her committed to a mental hospital.
“Because there had been violence against Beth, however, the police were called and they removed Mr Schlesinger from the family home,” he said, adding that a restraining order was placed on him.
Mr Schlesinger was allowed limited access to the children and full custody was granted to Beth.
Mr Stringer said that Mr Schlesinger had been violent and abusive not only towards Beth but towards her father and his own.
Mr Stringer alleged that Mr Schlesinger then requested a friend of his, Konstanze Thau, a high court judge in Austria, to contact Susanne Göttlicher, the judge in charge of the case.
“It is highly irregular for a high court judge to intervene in another court on behalf of a father who has shown himself to be violent,” declared Mr Stringer.
However, after that meeting, Beth’s custody rights were reduced and the judge ordered that the children were not to leave Austria.
A doctor, Ulrike Willinger, then produced a psychiatric report on Beth, said Mr Stringer, in which she recommended, without having fully examined all the people involved in the case, that the children should be returned to Mr Schlesinger’s control.
A further report, he said, was produced by Dr Sinko-Sanz, a qualified psychiatrist, which informed the court that there was nothing wrong with Beth and that the children were developing normally. Social services produced a similar report.
But, said Mr Stringer, Judge Göttlicher — who had previously been visited by Mr Schlesinger’s friend — decided to give full custody to the father.
“That was an extraordinary decision,” observed Mr Stringer.
In October 2011 Beth appealed and the father was granted only temporary custody.
“Crucially,” said Mr Stringer, “the higher court asked for a further investigation and that reports should be drawn up on the children, the father and the mother.
“That instruction from the higher court was never carried out, however, and the only reports that were ever produced for Judge Göttlicher’s court were those relating to Beth.” The father subsequently cancelled 50 of Beth’s visits and Filipino nannies were hired.
Beth, Mr Stringer said, became further worried about the children; Samuel had four teeth removed and Benjamin two, without any medical reasons given.
He added that Judge Göttlicher had suppressed a report from the nursery which had shown that when the children were seeing the father they had been crying, screaming, and extremely distressed.
“Clearly,” said Mr Stringer, “Judge Göttlicher had had that report but it was not used.”
In July 2013, the judge awarded full custody to the father, and Mr Stringer pointed out, “at this time, crucially, no assessment of the father, or of the father with the children, had taken place.
“Beth had been examined in German for the psychiatrist’s report that had recommended against her. She is not fluent in the language, and so her answers had been slow, which was counted as a mark towards her being considered mentally unstable.”
Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, said that the decision to award custody to Mr Schlesinger was “one of the worst miscarriages of justice I have ever experienced during my long period as an elected representative”.
Beth had been “falsely and cruelly labelled mentally ill”.
“For so long we’ve all been too scared to publicly use terms like conspiracy theories and corruption. I’m so relieved that the MPs in Tuesday’s debate named this bizarre case for what it is,” Beth said.
“As more and more pieces of the jigsaw fit together, it is clear that my children and I are the innocent victims of something very sinister and evil. I am sickened that my gorgeous little boys have been used and abused in this way by people that don’t care one iota about their welfare.
“I hope we can now rely on the British government to restore sanity and bring us justice at last.”
Mr Lidington said that as a party to the Hague convention, in international custody disputes, the court in the country where the children usually live decides what is in their best interests.