Snatched girl is overjoyed to be back home in Ulster
Published 04/04/2008 | 08:42
An Ulster-born woman who was snatched by her father as a small child and spent most of her life abroad has finally come home to live - more than two decades later.
Nadimah Don (now Deprizio) was taken by her father Patrick from Co Antrim on March 10, 1986, when she was just seven along with her sister Samantha who was then just two.
After spending 22 years away from Northern Ireland Nadimah came home this week to the delight of her overjoyed mother Mandy.
For both, the journey to yesterday's poignant reunion has been a long and arduous one.
Mandy's estranged husband Patrick took Nadimah and her sister ahead of a custody hearing in 1986. For the next six years, he dragged the sisters from country to country trying to evade authorities before deciding to move to the US in 1992.
After spending a couple of turbulent years with her father, Nadimah ran away and was placed in foster care until she turned 18. She then fell in love and began searching for her mother and eventually found her a fortnight before her wedding. Following their first emotional phone call, the pair enlisted the help of a US-based solicitor and Mandy was awarded custody of 13-year-old Samantha in 1997. Mother and younger daughter then returned to Northern Ireland to live. However, Nadimah remained in the US - until now.
"This is what I have always wanted," the 29-year-old gushed as she hugged her mother at Belfast International Airport on Wednesday. "I am so happy to be here. I have wanted this for so long. It's truly overwhelming, I just can't believe it's real."
The mother-of-three has spent the past 16 years living in Eustis, Florida, but had always dreamed of returning to be with her "Mom". When she first found Mandy, Nadimah was in the midst of a wedding and was starting to build a life of her own, however she knew deep down where her heart belonged.
"I just feel so lucky that I am finally back home with my Mom," she added.
Her mother Mandy, who despite having lost her two daughters when they were " just wee", says she feels exactly the same.
"It's like it's too good to be true. I feel like I am the luckiest person. It's the icing on the cake.
"When they were first taken, I was in a terrible state, it was like being in a dark hole. I did not know anybody else with abducted children, so I could not talk to anyone about it. No-one understood me. For years I had no idea where they were, it just really broke me. I had a friend who helped me with searches but I never had enough money to do it properly. I even kept my married name so it would be easier for the girls to find me."
Mandy was elated the day she heard Nadimah utter the words: "Is that my mummy?" on the phone 10 years ago and was even happier when Nadimah told her she was coming home. "I think I have cried all my tears. Now it is time to laugh and enjoy being a family," she added.