Missing Elliana, three, 'at very real risk', warns judge

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A High Court judge has asked the public to help find a three-year-old girl who has gone missing with her schizophrenic mother.

Elliana Shand, also known as Elliana Richards, who turns four next month, is believed to be in the UK with Jessica Richards.

Mr Justice Hayden said in London on Wednesday that he was "very concerned indeed" for Elliana's safety.

Elliana Shand
Elliana Shand (Family handout/PA)

"In optimum circumstances, the mother's capacity to meet her daughter's needs was barely satisfactory.

"But, it is abundantly clear that under stress, perhaps not taking her anti-psychotic medicine, perhaps in the grip of auditory commands which are hallucinatory, she poses, despite her love for her daughter, a very real risk to her safety."

The judge said that, in May, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham concluded that Elliana's placement with her mother no longer provided her with the essential safety and security that she needed and was her right.

During court proceedings, which were likely to see Elliana taken into care, her maternal grandmother, Sharon Shand, also known as Richards, took matters into her own hands and flew with the child to Jamaica to spend time together on a "farewell final holiday".

Mrs Shand maintained that she handed Elliana over to her mother on her return to the UK in September and did not know where they are now.

The judge said his assessment of the family was that Mrs Shand would not let Jessica, who also has severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Elliana out of her sight for one minute more than was necessary.

"I have utterly no doubt that she is in contact with her daughter and, almost certainly, her granddaughter."

The judge said the "very significant" risk which Jessica posed to her child was one that Mrs Shand was unable to accept or acknowledge.

It was very clear that, for all her difficulties, Jessica Richards had a warm and affectionate relationship with Elliana and Mrs Shand was similarly close to the child, he added.

"This is a very much loved little girl.

"In that she is immensely fortunate."

He said it was easy to see from Elliana's photo why Mrs Shand was so proud of her.

"She is a strikingly beautiful little girl".

He said he hoped that putting the information into the public domain would facilitate the return of Elliana to "circumstances where she is safe".

The local authority's plan was for her to remain within her family but on the paternal side.