Custody dad to lose Caitlin to adoption

By Rachel Grunwell

Diane Ellis-George. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Diane Ellis-George. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

The man at the centre of one of the country's most public custody fights is about to lose his daughter for a second time.

Kiwi Stephen Jelicich, who took baby Caitlin into hiding in 2005 in the middle of a bitter tug-of-love with his former Welsh wife Diane Ellis-George, has revealed his daughter is about to be adopted.

Ellis-George, a nurse, died two years ago of breast cancer and Caitlin was put in the care of her 27-year-old half-sister in the UK. In 2005, Jelicich sparked a police hunt with his actions after an Auckland court awarded the mum custody. After nine days on the run, he gave himself up.

Jelicich said he had hoped Caitlin, now aged 7, might eventually "be returned to me" - but he could not afford to fight for her any longer. The half-sister told him recently she would soon adopt Caitlin and "there's nothing I can do about it".

A teary-eyed Jelicich said he had come to accept Caitlin would grow up in Wales.

But he was immensely grateful the half-sister had allowed him a little into her life now. He skyped Caitlin only a couple of months ago and sent her Christmas presents and sometimes penned letters too.

"I let her know her dad is here and loves her and will always be here - and I hope to see her when she's old enough and wants to catch up."

Jelicich, 46, now a farmer in the Manawatu, has since become the proud dad to a 3- year-old daughter whom he wants to shield from publicity.

Asked if she helped heal his heart, Jelicich replied, "no". Both daughters "are separate", very much loved and neither could replace the other, he said.

"You are going to make me cry again. I'm still not over it and will never be over losing my daughter," he said. "There's a hole in my heart and nothing can ever fill it ... not a day goes by that I never think of my daughter."

He revealed that he was a typical parent when it came to a relocation dispute - he had spent $30,000 fighting his case, almost exactly what Otago University researchers say parents spend on these types of cases.

He is still paying off this debt.

The cost was worth every cent, he said, because "you can't put a value on having your child with you" and at least he knew he tried everything he could.

Jelicich said any parent who faced similar circumstances would have spent all their cash trying to get custody. He was not surprised some Kiwis spent close to $200,000 on custody and separation disputes.

He said fighting for custody through the courts was like "whacking your head against a brick wall ... but how could you not try [for custody]?"

- Herald on Sunday

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