5:00AM Sunday May 13, 2007
By Stephen Cook
The Welsh mum at the centre of New Zealand's most public international custody battle has been diagnosed with potentially life-threatening breast cancer.
Diane Jelicich, the mother of tug-of-love toddler Caitlin Jelicich, has had a partial mastectomy and now faces a second lot of chemotherapy treatment following the detection of a cancerous lump on her breast. It's another blow for the 43-year-old struggling not only with her own health issues, but with Caitlin's as well.
Diane and Caitlin, who is nearly 3, returned to Swansea two years ago after a custody dispute with Caitlin's father Stephen.
The fight over the toddler made headlines around the world in January 2005, when Stephen Jelicich went on the run with the baby after the breakdown of the couple's marriage a few months earlier. He gave himself up after 10 days and lost the right to keep Caitlin in the country after a New Zealand Family Court ruling.
However, since returning to Wales, Diane Jelicich has fallen on hard times. She is living in a council house, has been forced to return to work part time as a nurse "just so we can scrape by" and has been in and out of hospital with Caitlin, who is believed to be suffering from some type of problem with her immune system.
"She gets sick really easily," Diane Jelicich told the Herald on Sunday. "This is happening all the time, like once every six weeks. It really gets her down."
She was disappointed her former husband had not telephoned about Caitlin's health problems or offered any money to help with the cost of raising her. "I don't understand him. He fought so hard and made everything so public in New Zealand. He said he couldn't live without her - and now it's as though she doesn't exist."
Stephen Jelicich is now being pursued by British authorities for child support after refusing to pay anything to his ex-wife.
However, while a Swansea court has ruled in Diane Jelicich's favour, she accepts it could be almost impossible to enforce the order.
"If I could just get him to pay $10 a month, at least it would be something. I have not seen one cent. He just totally totally refuses to pay anything."
Stephen Jelicich refused to speak to the Herald on Sunday about his former wife, Caitlin or the child support order. However, last year he admitted cutting ties with Caitlin because of the difficulties in dealing with his ex-wife. He had undergone counselling, had a new partner and was now trying to move on with his life.
He believed he had lost his daughter and was angry his ex-wife was trying to "rub salt into the wounds" by seeking child support.
Diane Jelicich said despite that, she continued sending birthday and Christmas cards to her former husband and even had a page on the web with pictures and artwork from Caitlin, in case her father wanted to see the progress his daughter was making.
"I want her to have a dad, even if he is in another country," she said.
"I am trying really hard, but we don't get anything back. When I pick Caitlin up from creche and she sees one of the other kids' dads, she sometimes asks 'Where is my Daddy?'
"It is really, really sad. She is getting to that stage where she knows kids have dads, and she is wondering why she hasn't got one."
December 1, 2004: Stephen Jelicich successfully applies for an order preventing baby Caitlin's removal from New Zealand after his marriage breaks down during an 11-week family holiday here.
December 24: The order is overturned, allowing Caitlin to leave the country.
January 8, 2005: Stephen Jelicich takes Caitlin into hiding.
January 10: Diane Jelicich returns to Wales, as scheduled.
January 13: Police release details and photographs of the father and daughter in an effort to enforce the court order.
January 18: Stephen Jelicich comes out of hiding after his lawyer wins the right to appeal the Family Court order.
April 14-15: A hearing is held in the Family Court at Waitakere, but Judge Sarah Fleming rules in favour of Diane Jelicich.
May 7: Diane Jelicich leaves New Zealand.
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