Missing mother: man lied to police
A family friend of a mother on the run with her missing three-year-old son faces prison after a judge found he had been "utterly untruthful" about their disappearance.
Rebecca Minnock, 35, fled her home in Highbridge, Somerset, with son Ethan two weeks ago following a court order that he should live with his father, Roger Williams.
She has since made contact with The Sun to say both her and Ethan are "absolutely fine" and "very happy", with money, food and toys.
Andrew Butt, 56, the partner of Miss Minnock's mother, was arrested and held overnight in custody before appearing before Bristol Crown Court today.
Judge Stephen Wildblood QC heard evidence from Mr Butt, Detective Constable Anthony Davis and Miss Minnock's mother Louise Minnock.
The judge ruled Mr Butt had lied repeatedly to police and in court about his knowledge of the mother and son's disappearance and warned he faces prison tomorrow.
"I have no doubt that Mr Butt has told a string of lies," the judge said.
"The only reason for him to have done so is that he knows precisely where Rebecca and Ethan went that morning because he took them to Cheltenham himself in his motor car.
"That information is plainly essential to this inquiry and to the implementation of the collection order.
"For failing to tell the truth about the events of that morning, Mr Butt plainly acted in breach of the terms of that order.
"I find, Andrew Butt, that you have acted in breach of the collection order. I intend to sentence you in breach of the collection order.
"I detain you in custody overnight to appear before me in the morning."
The judge said he had the power to imprison Mr Butt, fine him or seize his assets after finding him in contempt.
Mr Butt first contacted police on Sunday after his partner, Mrs Minnock and her two children - Marvin Shaw and Limmie Shaw - were arrested.
The family members appeared before Bristol Magistrates Court on Monday and Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday, when they were released.
Judge Wildblood said he was "deeply suspicious" about their evidence but could not prove that they were withholding information that could lead to Ethan being found.
Mr Butt was interviewed by police and first insisted he had last seen Miss Minnock on May 26 - the day before she went missing.
He later admitted he had given her a lift to a cash point in Highbridge before taking her to a One Stop shop in the town.
Yesterday, Mr Butt was served with a collection order for Ethan and taken into custody by police.
Dc Davis told the court Mr Butt had told him: "Me and my family would all rather do 10 years in prison rather than tell you where they are".
"Mr Butt knew of the importance of the inquiry but then told a succession of lies," the judge said.
He ruled Mr Butt lied by saying he had last seen Miss Minnock on May 26 when he later admitted giving her a lift on May 27.
Mr Butt initially claimed he had driven his car to Asda to withdraw cash - rather than stating that he had taken Miss Minnock to do so.
The lorry driver initially said he had been the only person in the vehicle, when Miss Minnock was clearly captured exiting and re-entering the car on CCTV.
The judge said Mr Butt knew of the significance of that fact and had lied when he stated he was driving to Cheltenham to visit his elderly mother on May 27.
Mr Butt told the court he had driven to the nursing home but realised it was not visiting hours and so drove to pick up his post from Anna Peters - the aunt of Miss Minnock - in the town.
"His mobile phone was used to make two calls to Rebecca Minnock," the judge said.
"The calls were made at 7.32 and 7.41. I have no doubt that those calls were made by Mr Butt.
"The suggestion those calls were independent of seeing Miss Minnock and taking her to the cashpoint at 8.17 is utterly contrite and utterly untruthful.
"I don't believe him when he says he does not know where Rebecca Minnock went that morning.
"I am sure that Ethan was with the mother when Mr Butt picked up Rebecca Minnock.
"Ethan is three-years-old, he cannot have been left alone in the house by his mother."
In evidence, Mr Butt described the custody battle as a "nightmare" and said it had put pressure on his relationship with Miss Minnock's mother.
He claimed he had given Miss Minnock a lift on the morning of May 27 - the day she was due to attend the family court in Bristol where custody would be handed to Mr Williams.
Mr Butt said Ethan had not been with Miss Minnock and he had not seen her after dropping her near Highbridge train station to board a train to Bristol.
Records show Mr Butt drove his car, a black Ford Focus, from Highbridge to Cheltenham before returning to see Mrs Minnock.
The judge previously heard Mr Butt would regularly give lifts to Miss Minnock and her mother as neither could drive.
"We all have people we love and care for," Mr Butt added. "If you betray your family, well you are a traitor."
Miss Minnock was last seen at Musgrove Park Hospital on May 26 and failed to attend a family court hearing in Bristol at 9am the following day.
She vanished - taking Ethan with her - but later contacted her brother, Mr Shaw, from a withheld number, stating they were "safe and well".
Police described Miss Minnock as 5ft 3ins tall and of medium build, with dark wavy shoulder-length hair. Ethan is of small build with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Ethan, who was born on January 25 2012, has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013.
A custody battle began the next month, in March 2013. On the May 27 hearing this year, a judge said Ethan should live with Mr Williams and have supervised contact with his mother.
The judge today said Mr Williams could no longer afford legal representation as he had "ran out of money".
"He has been legally represented at his own cost through these proceedings which have gone on for a long time," the judge said.
"He has left the immediate area because of the reaction that there has been to these proceedings."
Miss Minnock has not been represented through hearings at Bristol Crown Court and Bristol Magistrates' Court this week.
Mr Butt will appear before Bristol Crown Court for sentence tomorrow morning.