In 2009 a UK judge decided to take away her children. Andreia has ever since struggled to get them back. She says she was humiliated, threatened and even arrested for just trying to get a glimpse of her kids. British authorities required her not to talk publicly about her case if she ever wants to see them again.
But, after widespread international support for Bodnariu family, who also have Romanian ties and who have been going through the same ordeal in Sweden, Andreia decided her only hope is that the rest of the world finds out about her nightmare.
That is why she gave an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW to Romanian ethnic newspaper Diaspora Românească: “My problem? I have become a mother at 16. My children’s father is 34 years older than me. But how am I to blame since I was only a minor when my parents decided and agreed that I should marry him? However, I raised my children as best as I could, by following my mother’s example, who raised me. I have come to this foreign country where I knew no one. I don’t know whose fault it was: my parents’, mine, or my corruptor’s, who fooled my parents. I don’t believe my children should pay for that by living without their mother”, Andreia has started her story.
In 1999, Robert Sutton, a British citizen, came to Romania with donations for those in need. This is how Andreia, who was only 14 at the time, met him: “The Englishman lived an apartment which he hired my mother to clean. As she couldn’t speak English, she would take me to translate for them. This is how we met. He showered us with gifts. After a year, when he proposed, I was shocked. I saw him as a father, if not even as a grandfather: he was 50! My parents accepted, thinking that, despite the age difference, he would take care of me and I would have a good life in England”, says Andreia.
She was only 16 when she came to England with a child in her arms and married to a man who could have been her father. When she was 19 she had three children with him already. “I had nothing to object to him as a husband and a father, but he was still preoccupied with charity and this is how we went often to Romania. It was good for me, because I got to see my family and birthplace. But my ex-husband seemed to have different goals!”, the Romanian woman recounts.
In 2003, Robert convinced Andreia to bring a girl from Romania to help her with the children and house chores. “The girl was from a poor family in Romania’s Alba county. Her name was Nicoleta and she was 17. I couldn’t blame her. In a short while, she became my husband’s lover. When I found out, I wanted to separate with him. But he asked for forgiveness and a troubled period followed. I was 19 and totally dependent of him. Then I found out Nicoleta was pregnant with him and that is when things started to unravel without the possibility of being fixed”, Andreia says.
While Robert juggled with Romanian young girls, Donna, his daughter from the first marriage filed a complaint with a family law court, accusing her father that he had abused her since she was 7 and until she turned 13. She said her action was determined by the fact that her father had now children again and she was afraid he might do the same to them. The police and social service inspectors investigated the case, but could find no proof.
After all this, Andreia divorced Robert, who quickly married the other Romanian girl, Nicoleta.
“I moved to another shire, trying to raise my children as best as I could. But the fact that I was a very young single mother drew attention. One day social services came to our house following a neighbour’s complaint who had reported seeing my children playing in the garden with knives. My eldest, David, later told me he was playing cutting the grass with a knife. The children were not alone, I was in the house busy packing some things. They found nothing on me, but from that moment on, they set eyes on me and everything fell apart. They filed incomplete reports about me and my children and my parental abilities. They found out the accusations brought by Donna against their father and applied for getting my children on the Child Protection list, claiming suspicions of sexual abuse risk.”
Robert Sutton’s case was re-opened with a law court from another shire and the sexual abuse claims made by his daughter Donna were re-discussed. “I was summoned in front of the judges to give declarations about him. The case was strictly about him, but they took the precaution to take my children into state custody. At the end of the investigation, Robert was found guilty of sexual abuse of his daughter Donna”, Andreia explains.
When the children were taken into custody, David was eight, Naomi six and Victoria five. If somebody should ask them, they would answer they’d rather be with their mother. The troubling messages they write to their mother stand as proof. But authorities say this attachment is emotionally harmful to the kids.
Andreia has tried to get them back but with no success. She has tearfully declared to Diaspora Românească: “These professionals said themselves that my husband was dangerous, lying and manipulative, but they did not take into account the fact that I was also one of his victims. I paid for my own psychological counselling sessions. My counsellor wrote a favourable report on my progress and my ability to protect my children. But this report, as many others, was not taken into account by the court of law when I asked to be given back my children. In the meantime I remarried a young man my own age who loves me and understands me. He stood by me in my fight to regain custody of my children. Both my husband Alex and me have proven we have everything needed to raise these children. But each time we met with the authorities’ refusal”.
The girls were put into an English family. The boy was taken to an orphanage, where he suffered physical and emotional abuse from the older boys. “The law says my boy should not have been taken to that place, because he was too young. He was harassed and his behaviour was negatively impacted, but the police say there is no sufficient evidence. He was just recently moved to the care of a man who really takes care of him. I have all the respect for this man who helps my child, he’s a true man”, added Andreia.