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Why I turned in runaway mum: Coast man reflects

Dorothy Lee Barnett
Dorothy Lee Barnett

A CLOSE family friend of convicted kidnapper Dorothy Lee Barnett has explained why he sparked the international manhunt that led to her arrest.

Minyama's Stephen Schofield was friends with Barnett, known to him as Alex Geldenhuys, for 15 years.

Her daughter, Samantha, grew up with his daughter and is like another child to him.

He was also close friends with the man Samantha thought was her father, Juan Geldenhuys.

One day he discovered Alex was not who she was pretending to be and Samantha had a father in another country who did not know if his daughter was dead or alive.

He was faced with the difficult decision - do I tell?

"When you learn something about someone that is criminal, you can make a decision morally whether you want to do it or not," Mr Schofield said. "I had been friends with them a long time, but it doesn't make it any less wrong (what she did)."

Mr Schofield made it categorically clear "there was no reward money".

Samantha Geldenhuys
Samantha Geldenhuys

"We have never received any financial benefit (from telling)," he said. "I also have no animosity towards Alex.."

Mr Schofield also said he and his wife, Shelley, did not make the decision overnight to inform on Barnett.

"I spent a month knowing about it, after knowing them for 15 years," he said.

"We had a long relationship and I saw things (with Barnett) that didn't make sense. This was not about me being cross with someone or not liking them. But how do you or I take a decision that a child does not have the right to know its biological parent.

"I am a father to three children. I would hate to think through any bitter divorce I couldn't see one of them."

Mr Schofield did not phone the FBI or the Australian Federal Police - his first contact was with Benjamin Harris Todd III, Samantha's biological dad.

"I got hold of Harris Todd," he said. "I said to him I want to help you, but I need to know who you are. I need to know what I've heard about you is not true before I talk to you.

"We spent a month working together before I said, "I believe you. I know this is not right."

Dorothy Lee Barnett, then Alex Geldenhuys with daughter Samantha.
Dorothy Lee Barnett, then Alex Geldenhuys with daughter Samantha.

Mr Todd then advised Mr Schofield he had to let the FBI know as there was international warrant for Barnett's arrest.

"He made it clear to me, all he cared about was that Sam was alive and well. For 20 years he didn't even know she was alive," Mr Schofield said.

The police were involved 23 months before the dramatic arrest of Barnett in her Mountain Creek home on November 4, 2013.

On Monday, Barnett, 54, was sentenced in Charleston, America, to 21 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to kidnapping her infant daughter and falsifying passport applications.

To the relief of Barnett's Sunshine Coast supporter, Bruce Michell, she should be released from jail in a few months as she has already served time in jail.

Mr Schofield acknowledges Samantha would probably never talk to him again, but he still had "a strong belief as a father I did the right thing".

"I have known Sam a long time. If there was anyway possible I could have approached her to talk about it, I would have," he said.

"How could I say to her, 'Your dad is not your dad. Can you tell me how you want to deal with it?'"

Mr Schofield also had no doubt Mr Todd deeply loved his daughter, despite some suggestions he was only pursuing the case to get back at his ex-wife.

"He (Todd) wrote to me on Monday and told me the court case results," he said.

"If he had testified she would have got a longer sentence. But his objective was never Alex, it was to know his daughter.

"If Alex had been found not guilty, I would have stood in front of her and apologised, even though she would probably have spat in my face. She was found guilty, because what she did was wrong."

Topics:  dorothy lee barnett editors picks kidnap


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