The mum who kidnapped her daughter and evaded police for 20 years

A mother who kidnapped her own daughter after a bitter custody battle and evaded the FBI for two decades has made a remarkable bid to return to Australia.

Dorothy Lee Barnett, 58, from South Carolina, insists she is 'not a threat to anybody' and is willing to renounce her American citizenship to return to the Sunshine Coast.

In a series of events worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, Ms Barnett kidnapped her own daughter and fled through Europe, South East Asia and Africa before settling in Australia.

In 1994, after a lengthy and resentful custody battle with Harris Todd, her ex-husband and father to her 11-month-old daughter Savannah, Ms Barnett took off, the Courier Mail reported.

Reborn as Alexandra Maria Canton, she picked up the infant, renamed Samantha, during one of her brief weekend visits with $8,000 in cash, fake passports and birth certificates.

She moved between Germany, France, Malaysia, South Africa, Botswana and New Zealand, before settling on the Sunshine Coast in 2007.

There, she says, she started a new life with a geologist she married in South Africa - Juan Geldenhuys.

Mr Geldenhuys died only a week before his wife's arrest in 2013.

Ms Barnett said she made long-term friends in Australia while raising her daughter, who only ever knew her mother as 'Alex'. 

'I want to be able to be there for Samantha and her wonderful husband-to-be and catch up with all my friends,' she told the publication. 

Her 20-year-long stint on the road only came undone when a friend dobbed her fake documents into the authorities. 

Ms Barnett was extradited to the US in 2013 and pleaded guilty to parental kidnapping and making false statements in a passport application.

A maximum possible jail sentence of 23 years was reduced to less than two years imprisonment and two years probation.

But she was released two-and-a-half months early, and returned to her home in South Carolina. 

She now wants to reunite with her daughter on the Sunshine Coast, who still goes by Samantha.

Her most recent application for a 12-month Temporary Activity visa was denied by the Australian Government, with a delegate for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, saying: 'Ms Barnett has not satisfied me that he (sic) passes the character test'.

The department decided she poses a risk to the community, contradictory to her claims she only wants to be with friends and family and advocate for the Australian Paralegal Foundation for children's safety and wellbeing.

'I'm not a threat to anybody. Hopefully, the Australian Government will see that and when I submit my next visa application it will be looked at favourably,' she said.

stella Posted on December 02, 2019 23:45

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