Mom on the run

She’s Canada’s most wanted fugitive.


But she’s also mom — one whose family insists she’s not a criminal but just trying to protect her nine-year-old daughter.

Child abductor or protector?

However it’s sorted out, the manhunt is on for Allana Haist.

Just days after an Amber Alert turned up nothing, a Canada-wide warrant was issued for her arrest.

That said, is this a case of a fugitive with a story to tell?

“They have lived a nightmare in Egypt and we thought they were safe in Canada but the nightmare continues,” insists an online family statement. “We are so proud of our daughter, who has done everything in her power, and continues to do so, in order to protect her daughter.”

But in the eyes of the law, the university professor with a PhD in philosophy, is a wanted woman.

With daughter Layla Sabry, police say the 38-year-old is on the lam — last seen Thursday in Welland. When she did not show up at a custody hearing Friday, police were called.

Layla’s father, Mohamed Abdel-Motaleb from Cairo, Egypt, who’s here on a visitor’s visa, has said in a statement: “I love my daughter very much and just want to be able to see her again. So does my family. We implore Layla’s mother to comply with the many court orders that have been issued, and to immediately contact the authorities. Please let us see Layla again.”

Like many child custody battles, court documents show two sides to the story.

The couple met in Belgium and settled in the father’s home country of Egypt. Layla was born there and the father claims after he and Allana divorced, the girl was snuck out on the back of a camel through Sudan before coming to Welland — the site of the next court date where both Abdel-Motaleb and the Haist family are expected.

“We are asking that you come to the Welland courthouse at 102 East Main St. in Welland, Ont., on Monday Dec. 12 at 2 p.m.,” said the Haist family statement. “This is for a show of support for our brave daughter and granddaughter.”

On social media, Allana’s uncle Paul Dillon wrote: “I have set up the Allana Haist Custody Fund as a means of providing Allana and Layla with the money to secure a lawyer to help them through this legal dispute. Allana’s ex- husband is a very wealthy Egyptian businessman with the financial resources to crush Allana’s legal case.”

So far, $15,000 has been raised. The Haist family retained St. Catharines lawyer Nathalie Fortier, whose firm put out an “other side of the story” news release, saying “Allana Haist’s family wishes her and Layla’s voices to be heard.”

But a person close to Abdel-Motaleb, also a professor, said the “narrative that depicts him as wealthy” and any other allegations “are false.”

He said, she said and they said! There seems to be well-meaning forces on both sides spinning versions. There will be a time to settle that part of it. Right now, the nine-year-old is top of mind.

Layla is certainly Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff McGuire’s top priority.

“We strongly encourage (the mother) to surrender herself to the police,” he said. “It is imperative that the young girl be found safely. The NRPS has an obligation to bring this matter to a safe resolution and I encourage anyone who has knowledge or information of their whereabouts to contact the NRPS, (a) local law enforcement agency or Crimestoppers.”

Having said that, McGuire has an open mind: “I assure everyone involved, that the NRPS will continue to thoroughly investigate all aspects of this case. The priority will remain the safety of all.”

So here’s what should happen.

With McGuire promising to look at all of it, there’s no reason to run anymore Allana.

I know the chief is honourable and I encourage Allana to contact him directly and arrange to come in and get this worked out before it gets out of hand. Digging a deeper hole is not the answer.

You may be a wanted fugitive but many do understand you are also a mom.

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