A Toronto mother was reunited last week with her abducted children in Zimbabwe after a months-long search that grew to involve the RCMP, Interpol and local police.
“I just want to thank everybody who helped us,” a tearful Biatra said at a news conference at police headquarters on Monday morning.
“Without you guys, there would be no way. And I would be without my children again. But you made it possible for me.”
In April, Muzabazi sent her two children – Rene, a seven-year-old girl, and Shane, a five-year-old boy – to Zimbabwe for the summer to visit their extended family.
Police said the children’s extended family tried to keep them from returning home and even with the country’s cooperation, Muzabazi still had to travel to the country herself in December to regain custody of her children.
“I would like to thank [Det. Cst.] Shari Nevills for everything, all the calls I was making in the middle of the night, when I didn’t know what to do.
“You made it possible for me to be with my children for Christmas. Thank you so much,” Muzabazi said.
Rene and Shane were born in Mississauga and after a divorce, Muzabazi was awarded sole custody. Rene and Shane had visited Zimbabwe in the past and the visits were always uneventful. The children always returned home, Nevills said Monday.
This time however, police allege, the family refused to send the children back and enrolled them in a Zimbabwean boarding school.
“I had several moments where I really didn’t think these kids were coming home. There were quite a few roadblocks in the way. You’re dealing with foreign countries. You have to abide by their laws. You have to work within their systems…it’s a learning experience,” Nevills said.
“They were born in a Canada. They were taken to a country and put into a school where they don’t know anybody and they don’t speak the language. It would be terrifying for anybody,” she said.
Muzabazi contacted Toronto Police in September. Police notified Foreign Affairs, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Missing Children Services and Interpol.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General was also involved and contacted the Zimbabwe Central Authority, who agreed to release the children.
The children’s maternal grandmother, who lives in Zimbabwe, helped the Zimbabwe Ministry of Justice and Zimbabwe Republic Police get the necessary documentation so that the children could return home.
However, as the search for the children intensified, the boarding school hid them from authorities, police allege.
The children’s grandmother had done all she could and Muzabazi needed to go to Zimbabwe herself to regain custody, police said.
Muzabazi flew to the country and police say that as she waited outside the school, another family member – helped by the school – fled with her children again.
The children were returned to the Canadian Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe on Dec. 11 and returned to Toronto on Dec. 13.
The investigation is ongoing.