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POLICE BAN POSTERS TO FIND KIDNAPPED KIDS; Campaigner is stopped from advertising in Midland stations.

Byline: BY BEN GOLDBY

POLICE have been accused of treating international child abductions as low priority after BANNING information posters from their stations.

Legal specialist Brian Hitchcock, 48, from Coventry, helps parents to win back kids who have been snatched by their estranged partners.

But the father-of-two claims West Midlands Police have refused to allow him to put up posters in stations advertising his free service.

"When I asked them, they said that international abduction cases were a low priority," said Brian. "That is a disgrace.

"They don't give advice to parents, yet they won't let us put up our posters offering a free service."

Mr Hitchcock left his previous job as an NHS manager to study law at Coventry University.

He now works with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) and the Family Law Society to help re-unite parents with children abducted by a partner.

He is currently investigating five international cases, including one in Mexico.

"It's complicated and multijurisdictional and it's something you need to be a specialist in," he said.

"If the police can't help people by just pointing them in the right direction, then that's not right.

"They are not telling victims to go to the Ministry of Justice or the Commonwealth Office.

"People need to know how to find their kids."

Mr Hitchcock, from Willenhall Woods, was involved in his own bitter custody battle which he eventually won in the High Court in 1998.

In 2002 he helped a distraught South African mother find her missing child - and is now set to marry the happy mum.

Brian met Nicky West, 38, on a TV chat show six years ago.

She was in Britain searching for son Alexander deDemko, now 15, who had been taken by his father, Anthony.

British citizen Nicky was married to her ex-husband for four years, before an acrimonious split.

Mr deDemko won custody of Alex, but whisked him out of South Africa after collecting him for a supposed holiday in Mozambique.

After they disappeared, Nicky launched appeals across Africa before moving back to England.

Brian finally traced the boy to Vancouver where Nicky eventually found her son and got to speak with him in November last year.

Now the couple plan to tie the knot.

"Losing Alex was awful," said Nicky. "Because he was with his father, people think it was not so serious - but it was.

"You look at the McCanns' story and because it is a strangerabduction the police search for her.

But I went through the same emotions.

"I couldn't believe it when Brian found my son. It was amazing.

"We have been together for five years now. He is my knight in shining armour."

Brian said: "Nicky's case was heartbreaking. I'm glad that I found her and am looking forward to getting married."

West Midlands Police said: "We do not allow external agencies to advertise in police front offices because it is seen as an endorsement of their services."

bengoldby@mrn.co.uk

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CONCERNED: Legal specialist Brian Hitchcock, 48 with wife-to-be Nicky West
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 2, 2007
Words:512
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