Skye was 'looking for love'

The woman accused of abducting young Alyssa cared for her like a good mother.

Sam Barker, with Kashine, and Scott Richards are relieved to have Alyssa home. Photo / NZ Herald
Sam Barker, with Kashine, and Scott Richards are relieved to have Alyssa home. Photo / NZ Herald

When a photo of kidnapped toddler Alyssa Barker flashed across her television screen last Saturday night, Miroslava Selska looked across at the child cradled in her guest's arms.

"That looks like your child," she told Skye Mason, the former boarder who had turned up on her doorstep late the night before with nothing but a hungry baby on her hip.

Three hours later Selska called police to say she believed 18-month-old Alyssa - allegedly abducted by Mason after Alyssa's parents took her in - was sleeping in her spare room in Swanson. Alyssa was returned unharmed to her frantic parents, Scott Richards and Sam Barker, a few hours later.

Despite her suspicions during the news broadcast, Mason didn't seem worried, Selska said.

"She said 'No, it's not my child, I have a boy'. I was quiet because I didn't want to scare her away, but I was thinking about it. I was feeling that something is not right."

Mason had arrived about 10.30pm the night before, and told Selska that the child, who was wearing only pyjamas, a jersey and socks, was her son Jake. Selska initially had no cause for suspicion as the toddler smiled, laughed and played during the 23 hours she spent in the house, Selska said.

"She is so cute and Skye cared for her very well. She was playing with her, feeding her and soothing her. She was like a mother to her."

Selska did not recognise the police mugshot of Mason because it looked "grumpy and she was always smiling."

Mason often talked about her own three children, one of whom is named Jake. None was in her care, Selska said.

"She's missing her children. It's so sad. She needs love, she needs a feeling that somebody needs her and cares about her."

Mason lived with her for about six weeks in March and April, but left for a job in Riverhead, Selska said. Last weekend, the 27-year-old told Selska she wanted to move back in but was not sure if Jake would live in the house permanently.

Selska noticed that the toddler had a little bit of nail polish on, which she thought was unusual for a boy.

"All the pieces of the puzzle were coming together."

Selska said she briefly considered waiting until morning to call police, because she knew Alyssa was safe and she was worried a police raid would frighten her.

But as a mother of two adult daughters, she knew Alyssa's parents would be worried.

As it turned out Alyssa was fine, she said.

"I was worried the police would come in, wake her and she would be crying, but no, she was quite happy."

Mason was led past her by police on the way out, Selska said.

"I said to her, 'I'm sorry Skye, but it was wrong'. I was not feeling like I did something special, I think anyone would do it."

Alyssa's parents struggle with aftermath of trauma

The parents of Alyssa Barker are struggling to put the traumatic experience behind them.

Scott Richards and Sam Barker got their daughter back after Swanson woman Miroslava Selska called police late last Saturday night.

The couple didn't sleep for the 36 hours their eldest daughter was missing.

Richards said they were struggling with the enormity of what they had been through. "We're trying not to think about it now because, if we do, we feel guilty. We don't want to think the worst things."

The couple had taken in Skye Mason after a Silverdale shopkeeper told them the woman was sleeping rough outside his business. Mason is a former girlfriend of Barker's cousin and was in a car with him when he died in an accident about 10 years ago.

Alyssa had been a bit unsettled since her return, said Richards.

"She's just not wanting to go to sleep and when she wakes up she's a bit funny."

Mason appeared in the Waitakere District Court on Tuesday charged with abducting a person aged under 16 and assaulting police. She remains in custody while her fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Detective Inspector Stan Brown said police wanted to speak to whoever picked up Mason and Alyssa and drove them to Glen Eden several hours after Alyssa disappeared.

- Herald on Sunday

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