A mother and her child have been missing for three weeks after it looked like he might be taken into care.
A nationwide hunt is under way for Kelly Jefferies, 42, and her son Knox, 10, who were last seen leaving their home in the Bristol area on July 28.
Care proceedings were started by South Gloucestershire Council on July 2 due to concerns about Knox’s welfare as he wasn’t being allowed to go to school or socialise with other children.
A hearing in the family court was held in public – an unprecedented step – in an attempt to find the pair who are thought to be in hiding.
Judge Stephen Wildblood QC said he was doing this out of genuine concern for Knox, to help Ms Jefferies ‘appreciate the seriousness of the matter’ and encourage witnesses to come forward.
Police investigations have been unable to find Ms Jefferies and Knox but they may have initially travelled to the Oldham area.
‘The mother says she has removed herself and Knox from what she calls the statutory jurisdiction,’ Judge Wildblood told the hearing at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre.
‘She has expressed ideas in copious letters to many people, including the court, that raise serious concerns about her mental health.
‘She has not allowed Knox to be educated adequately or afforded the opportunity to socialise.
‘On July 28 the mother went into hiding with Knox and her whereabouts and of Knox are not known.
‘They raise obvious concerns about how Knox is being accommodated, how financial provision is being made for him and similar concerns.’
Knox’s father lives away from the family home in Patchway and only has a ‘limited relationship’ with his son.
The court heard how Ms Jefferies had resisted attempts to get her to engage with the care proceedings.
When this failed, an emergency protection order was issued on July 28.
Friend Kelly Pope, told the court that Ms Jefferies had given her a bank card and Pin number to withdraw £20 in return for driving the pair to the bus station on the morning of July 28 and said she would be returning in two weeks.
‘She said social services were trying to take Knox off her,’ she said.
‘I asked her why and she said it was because she doesn’t send him to school.’
When police began investigating the disappearance, Ms Pope admitted she had lied to officers about not seeing them because she was ‘put on the spot’.
‘I had realised there was something wrong by then, but I didn’t at the time,’ she added.
Ms Pope told the court that days before the disappearance her friend had transferred £1,000 into her bank account to repay debts accumulated over several years.
She denied having any contact with Ms Jefferies or Knox since July 28 and denied intending to give her the money back.
Lucy Reed, representing the council suggested Ms Pope’s evidence was ‘implausible’ and warned her the judge could jail her if he found she had lied to the court. Ms Pope replied: ‘It’s true.’
Ms Reed said the council ‘regrets this matter has escalated in the way it has’ and acknowledged that both Ms Jefferies and Knox were likely feeling anxious.
She added: ‘The local authority wishes to secure Knox’s return as soon as possible. The local authority is hoping that members of the public will be encouraged to appreciate why it would be in Knox’s best interest for them to assist.
‘We know Ms Jefferies is very anxious about the involvement of the local authority and rejects that, but she also needs to know the court is in charge of these proceedings and will ensure a fair process for her.’
The hearing was adjourned to a later date.
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