A man who sailed across the Tasman Sea with his six-year-old daughter will face criminal charges in New Zealand, following a month-long search to reunite the girl with her mother.
Alan Langdon, 49, was charged with taking a child from New Zealand, after he and his daughter Que were located in Australia on Wednesday.
The pair were reported missing on December 17 when they left Waikato on a trip to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands for Christmas, prompting an international search.
After 27 days at sea, the two were found in the southern New South Wales coastal town of Ulladulla.
Mr Langdon said a broken rudder forced him to change course and sail to Australia as the safest option.
He was in a custody dispute with his former wife, Que’s mother Ariane Wyler, when they disappeared, prompting widespread searches of the New Zealand coast and sea areas. He is likely to be extradited in coming days.
Col Chapman, a child recovery expert hired by the child’s mother, said the pair were reunited in New South Wales on Sunday.
It was the second time he had been recruited by Ms Wyler, after he found them living in rural New Zealand more than a year ago.
“The mum had become a little bit frustrated in not seeing her daughter for so long so she went down to the marina at Ulladulla harbour where her daughter was in the hope of just seeing her or just being able to look at her,” Mr Chapman told the ABC.
“Her wish was just being able to speak to her.”
Mr Chapman said Ms Wyler had arrived in Australia from Switzerland, where she has been since early last month, and Que was now in her care.
‘I went to the toilet and she was gone’
Speaking to the Milton Ulladulla Times on Sunday, Mr Langdon said he was upset and concerned for his daughter’s emotional wellbeing.
“She is just a child and the fact I don’t know where she is kills me,” he said.
“We came in [to the Ulladulla Harbour fishing co-op kitchen] at 8.30am, by 8.35 I didn’t know where she was and by 8.50 the police were here.”
Mr Langdon said Que went into the toilet and vanished.
However Mr Chapman said Que was approached by her mother, and it was Que’s decision to go with her, Fairfax Media reported.
“Ariane approached Que at a quiet moment,” he said.
“They chatted briefly and Que informed her mother she missed her, loved her and was thrilled to see her.
“Within a few minutes Que asked if she could come with her mother.”
According to Mr Chapman, a New Zealand court had seized Que’s passport to prevent her from traveling internationally before her parents’ scheduled court appearance in March last year.
Mr Langdon, however, denied claims he’d avoided court or deliberately fled the country, saying he and Que had intended to travel to the Bay of Islands before being forced to change route to Australia.
New Zealand Police have initiated court proceedings under the Care of Children Act and have confirmed Mr Langdon is due in Te Awamutu District Court on January 25 and that he is currently talking to Australian officials.