Decades-old parental abduction case ends on positive note in Victoria

Patricia O'Byrne has been arrested for taking infant daughter

Eighteen years after his infant daughter was snatched from his custody, Joe Chisholm is stunned that his search is over and she has been found.

The case came to an end in Victoria last Thursday, when Victoria detectives arrested Patricia Joan O’Byrne for allegedly abducting her biological daughter, Sigourney Teresa Chisholm on May 15, 1993.

Chisholm and O’Byrne had been mired in a custody battle when O’Byrne allegedly violated a custody order and left Toronto with their 20-month-old. Sigourney is now 20 years old.

“I am in shock – even though we have been hoping for this day for years and years. No doubt, Sigourney is in shock too,” Chisholm wrote in a post to the website, Peace 4 The Missing.

Victoria police Det.-Const. Roger de Pass and his partner walked up to the door of the single-family home in the 2000-block of Howard St., just before 8 a.m., where O’Byrne, 53, was living and arrested her. Police say she had been residing in Victoria under a different name.

Coinciding with the arrest, Toronto police and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, as well as counsellors, found and broke the news to Sigourney, who had also been living under a different name.

“I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of what this young woman has just learned,” said Victoria police Deputy Chief John Ducker.

The Victoria Police Department’s role in the case, led by the Toronto Police Service, began in October.

“Toronto police passed along valuable information from the Missing Children’s Society of Canada that O’Byrne may be residing in (Victoria),” said de Pass, who led Victoria police efforts, which included patrol officers and the covert surveillance Strike Force unit.

Police were concerned that O’Byrne posed a flight risk, de Pass said. Over the years rumours swirled that the mother was living in a number of countries, including England, Norway, Ireland, Spain and the U.S.

While he remained tight-lipped about Sigourney’s current whereabouts, he said she wasn’t living with her mother at the time of the arrest. 

“From what I understand they had been living in Victoria for (years),” he said, adding that when Sigourney was located she was a healthy, young adult who was doing very well and attending school.

While de Pass would not reveal specifics about the ongoing case, he said the positive outcome is heartening.

“It is always challenging to solve older files but I think this investigation is a reminder to all the families of missing children that there is still detectives working these files and we’re not giving up,” the detective said, adding that credit also goes to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and MissingKids.ca.

As for Chisholm, who also has a son, Jesse, his thoughts are with those families who continue to search for their loved ones.

“I will never forget that there are still so many missing. I will never forget,” Chisholm wrote.

O’Byrne is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court Monday morning. Calls to the Toronto police detective squad were not returned.

 

emccracken@vicnews.com

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