A mother was reunited with her son after an alleged parental abduction 31 years ago, solving a case that she hopes will encourage others grappling with the pain of missing a child to remain optimistic.
Lyneth Mann-Lewis of Brampton met her son Jermaine Mann on Saturday in Connecticut.
In a press conference at Toronto police headquarters on Monday, Mann-Lewis said she was in disbelief when she saw her son for the first time since he was less than 2 years old.
“I grabbed him and I squeezed his head – I wanted to feel if he’s real. I touched him and said ‘oh my God my baby’.” He replied “Oh mummy, you have my eyes.” Jermaine had been told his mother died shortly after his birth.
Lyneth Mann-Lewis describes the moment she was reunited with her son:
While tearfully recounting the reunion, which gave her the chance to cuddle and cook for her son for the first time in decades, Mann-Lewis said she also thought of others whose children are still missing.
“I am the proof that after 31 long years of suffering, one should never give up,” she said. “Be patient, be strong, and believe that all things are possible and that anything can transpire.”
In the emotional briefing, she thanked Amanda Pick, CEO and investigator Ted Davis of the Missing Children Society of Canada for their unwavering belief and support.
“Ted encouraged me to always believe,” she said, thanking him for never giving up till he found her son over the course of an investigation spanning more than 20 years.
“From the moment I first talked to Amanda I knew…she would also be an extremely great person, (she) helped me through this ordeal and kept the positivity throughout the time I have known her, and for that I am very grateful.”
Det. Sgt. Wayne Banks from organized crime enforcement, fugitive squad also commended Davis and acknowledged his tremendous contribution to solving the case.
“(Davis) took this on as a passion. My heart goes out to him…for the amount of work he has put into this investigation,” said Banks.
Banks says Toronto police also conducted investigations but could not find a connection to Canada and their “leads went cold.”
A break in the case came in 2016, when the Toronto Police Fugitive Squad hosted their annual international fugitive investigative training. The conference brings in representatives from 21 countries and over 200 investigators from across the world attend the training sessions.
“During the conference we had the opportunity to introduce Mr.Davis (to) representatives from the U.S. Marshal Service where they were able to start talking about the case in a more in-depth fashion,” said Banks.
Banks says as a result of this meeting and the investigation that followed, carried out by Davis and the U.S. Marshal Service, Jermaine’s father Allan Man Jr. was identified.
U.S. federal agents say Mann Jr. was arrested on Friday in Connecticut, where he and Jermaine had been living under aliases in a quiet suburb near Hartford.
After running off with his then 21-month-old son on June 24, 1987, following a visitation in Toronto, Mann Jr. entered the U.S. and obtained fake identification for himself and his son, including bogus Texas birth certificates, officials alleged.
U.S. officials said Mann Jr. has dual Canadian and Ghanaian citizenship, and was found living under the name Hailee DeSouza in subsidized housing in Vernon, about 20 kilometres east of Hartford.
He appeared briefly Friday in federal court in Hartford, where he faces charges including making false statements in transactions with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Hartford Courant reported that Jermaine sobbed quietly in the front row as his father appeared in court on Friday, and left the courthouse without commenting. His alias has not been released and he has asked for privacy as he reconnects with his mother.
Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham says the suspect is alleged to have “lived a lie for the last 31 years.”
“We thank the many law enforcement agencies, in the U.S. and Canada, that have investigated this matter, worked hard to apprehend this fugitive and finally provided some answers to a mother who has suffered with her son’s absence for far too long,” said Durham.
Police chief Mark Saunders said after the charges are dealt with in the U.S., Mann Jr. is expected to be extradited to Canada to face one abduction charge.
The investigation has involved multiple U.S. agencies as well as Toronto police and the RCMP.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press