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By Aaron Wherry
A Stratford father is appealing to the public for assistance in finding his triplets who were abducted by his estranged wife more than two weeks ago.
Craig Merkley said his former wife, Carline Vandenelsen, had already had her visitation access severely limited as a result of several court orders when Stratford police received a tip explaining Vandenelsen might be planning to abduct the 7-year-old triplets Gray, Olivia and Peter.
According to Merkley, court restrictions kept him from barring Vandenelsen from visiting the children on Oct. 14, but worked out an agreement whereby Vandenelsen's mother would supervise the visit. The triplets, Vandenelsen and her mother took the children to the family farm in Scotland, Ontario and during this visit, the triplets and their mother disappeared.
In addition to the tip, which was later found to come from Vandenelsen's mother, Merkley explained there were other clues hinting Vandenelsen had been planning the abduction for some time.
"She collapsed all our bank accounts and registered retirement savings plans, tried to sell our home, broke up with her boyfriend and quit her job," he said.
Merkley also said he was sure Vandenelsen was not acting alone. "She has help and she has sympathizers and they're helping her in some way."
The community of Stratford has banded together to help him, he said and he has been busy notifying as many media outlets as possible in hopes of finding someone who has seen his former wife or three children.
Insp. John Hagarty of the Stratford police, said investigators believe Vandenelsen may have headed to the United States or possibly overseas.
Hagarty explained police had responded to several calls in the past concerning Vandenelsen for domestic disturbances and arrested her once in connection for protesting road work around her home.
The abduction will be featured in an upcoming episode of the television program, America's Most Wanted and police are encouraging people to come forward with information.
Barbara Snider, case director for the international division of the Missing Children's Society of Canada, said 358 parental abductions were reported in Canada in 1999.
According to Snider, despite the complications, there is still reason to hope the triplets will be found. "A great percentage of parentally abducted children are found and returned," she said.