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Family heartbreak

21 August 2015

Sarah Meyrick awaits Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank


IT IS always sad when a relationship breaks down beyond repair, and never more so than when young children are involved. Even worse are those cases where one parent abducts a child.

The number of child abductions has doubled in a decade, says the charity, Reunite International, which sets out to help parents in this situation. Surprisingly, perhaps, 70 per cent of abducted children are taken by their mothers. Abducted (ITV, Tuesday of last week) told the story of three families who are experiencing this nightmare.

Most often, this comes about where the parents are from different countries. We heard from Gosia, from Poland, who met her Libyan husband in Wales. There was no explanation of why their relationship foundered, but her husband took their baby, Talia, to Libya when she was three months old.

On his return to Britain, her husband was sent to prison. Talia remains with her Libyan grandparents, who deny the mother any contact. She sat, weeping, and declaring her undying love for her lost daughter, in broken English.

Others take more drastic action. One father, Craig, lost one of his two daughters to his Polish ex-wife, Marta, who has defied a court order to return Crystal. Craig turned for help to Adam, an ex-army and former Metropolitan Police officer, who runs the organisation Child Abduction Recovery International, and says that it has rescued more than 100 stolen children from 50 countries. The pair of them snatched Crystal back.

Crystal had not seen her father for two years, and cried, although the film showed her later happily reunited with her sister. The case is not over. Marta is still fighting for custody. Anguish all round.

I am a great fan of the BBC’s mockumentary W1A, in which Ian Fletcher, the Head of Deliverance for the Olympics in W1A’s forerunner, Twenty Twelve, has moved to the BBC as Head of Values. The fly-on-the-wall depiction of life at the BBC is funny for all sorts of reasons, but one of them is the ongoing quest to find the next award-winning programme format.

Sadly, W1A is currently off air, but programme-makers at ITV have come up with a format worthy of Anna Rampton, the Director of Better in the last series. Flockstars (ITV, Thursdays) pairs eight celebrities you have probably never heard of with sheepdogs. Or, as the ITV press office has it, “a cast of famous faces will be swapping red carpets for green fields this summer.”

Helped by expert mentors, the celebrities are learning to herd flocks of sheep, ducks, and geese round a set of obstacles. Last week, it was the turn of the rapper Fazer, from N-Dubz, and the actress Lesley Joseph. They proved themselves considerably more competent than the next hapless pair, the actress Wendi Peters, and the Paralympic dressage champion Lee Pearson.

August it may be, but Flockstars is scraping the barrel. Comparisons have been made with the presenter Alan Partridge and his proposal for monkey tennis on TV. And not in a good way, as W1A’s press officer Tracey Pritchard would doubtless say.

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