Sara and her father had been living in Toronto under assumed names; Yones and Sara Kohan. Her father worked as a carpenter, and she was enrolled in grade one at a local school. Her father had filed a refugee claim with Canadian immigration, but they were not flagged because of the assumed names. They had managed to escape detection for three years.
When we left the interview room, I locked the door behind me. I took Sara to a large meeting room and asked Marge, my secretary, to take her to the bathroom. I was extremely relieved that I had been able to separate Sara without a scene. I have been in many situations where children were wailing as their parents clung to them and refused to let go. It’s a situation you never want to happen, and it only occurs when the child’s safety is in imminent danger or has been threatened. In these situations, everyone’s heart is getting ripped out, the child, the parent’s and mine included. Those kinds of sobs coming from a child wound my soul and haunt me constantly.
When Sara returned from the bathroom, I thanked Marge, and I was able to get Sara to sit down with me in the conference room. I immediately began chatting again. I asked her if she liked drawing. I knew from experience that I needed to keep her occupied, happy, and engaged. When I mentioned drawing, her eyes lit up, she smiled and nodded at me. Bingo, I thought, she’s in my wheelhouse now. I knew she was safe, and I immediately felt a flood of relief.
Along with my experience with children, I believe I have been gifted with an instinctive and intuitive nature, particularly with children who have been sexually assaulted, brutally beaten or compromised in any way. I can put the brutality aside and simply focus on the child. I can quickly and inherently read their natures and know how to respond to them in a way that makes them feel protected and safe. It’s natural and instinctive, and it’s not a gift I treat lightly. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for having been able to help children throughout my life. It is the thing I am most proud of from my years of service.
Luckily, I also have a bit of a gift for drawing, nothing compared to my daughter Alyssa, but I get by. I asked Marge to bring us some paper and pencils as I didn’t want to leave Sara unattended and cause any disruption in our connection. With a pencil and paper in hand, I first drew a picture of a horse. Sara was completely absorbed. I drew a Mountie standing beside the horse, and then I drew a smiling picture of Garfield the cat. Sara laughed at that one. I then asked Sara to show me what she could draw. At some point, I gave a twenty-dollar bill to another officer and asked them to run out and get Sara a burger and some fries. We hung out together, chatting and drawing until the female social services worker arrived.
I asked Sara if it would be okay if I spoke with the lady outside. I assured her we would just be right outside the door. Sara smiled and said sure and kept on drawing and eating her French fries. As we stood outside, the woman told me that she would be taking Sara to a home in Stewiacke about twenty minutes South of Truro.
“Will there be any children at this home?” I asked.
“No, there aren’t any children,” she said. Why do you ask?”
I explained that I thought Sara would feel more comfortable with other kids around her age. I spent the next twenty minutes desperately trying to convince this woman to let me take Sara to my home. I said that I felt Sara would be comfortable with my kids, who were all near her age. I indicated that we had a large house with six bedrooms and lots of toys and dolls. I told her that my wife Marianne was a speech pathologist who worked primarily with children of Sara’s age, and I explained that Sara and I had established a connection, and I believed she felt safe around me and trusted me.
“I’m really sorry, Cst. Roy. I wish there were something I could do, but because you aren’t an approved shelter family, I can’t let Sara go home with you.”
I could sense she was as disappointed as I was, but her hands were tied. I resigned myself to protocol. I understood and knew that systems were in place to protect children and could not be easily breached or simply disregarded. I went back in and explained to Sara that she would be going to spend the night with a charming couple in a town about twenty minutes away and that in the morning we would see each other again and that I was going to take her to see her mom. I asked her if that was okay, and Sara nodded, although I felt her retreat. She had gone quiet. No doubt, Sara was probably very overwhelmed by all the events that had just taken place. I comforted myself in the knowledge that I knew Sara was and would be safe and that tomorrow she would be back with her mother, where she belonged.
While I was with Sara, my partner for the day, Cst. Steve Spriggs had been outside searching the vehicle and itemizing what he had found in the car and the vehicle’s trunk. It was mostly clothes and Sara’s toys and blankets. It looked as if they had been living in the car for a few days.
Marc Habib Eghbal was taken to the Colchester Correctional Center in Truro and locked up. He was to stay there for a few days until his detention hearing in Halifax. Eventually, a deportation trial was held in Halifax, and Egbald was deported back to France to face charges of grievous assault, causing bodily harm, kidnapping, and having false identification papers for himself and Sara.
In front of his two children, Sara and her six-month-old baby sister, Marc Habib Eghbal had carved his ex-wife Fabianne down the right side of her face with a knife, dragging the blade through part of her eye and telling her, “Since you don’t love me, nobody will ever love you.” Then he kidnapped their three-year-old daughter, Sara. Fabienne had to have forty-two stitches to close the wound on her face. The other wound stayed open for many years.
While writing this memoir, I reached out to Fabienne. I had sent her a text message to ask her if it was okay if I included her assault in this book. I apologized for having to bring her back to that horrific memory. Still, I felt it was vital that you, the reader, understood the kind of man who had kidnapped Sara and why I was so insistent on separating them as soon as possible.
Fabienne immediately sent a text back explaining the details of what happened, and then another text followed.: “Patrick, don’t ever hesitate if you need my help. You can have whatever information you need from me.” Given the experience we shared, we have become like family. We have stayed in contact throughout the years. There are Christmas wishes and random check-ins, ensuring that everyone is okay. Fabienne, her girls and her father have visited and stayed at my house in Nova Scotia for a couple of nights and travelled with me to Beresford, New Brunswick, where they met some of my sisters. My wife, children, and I have been to Nantes in France and stayed at their home as well. We have no shame in expressing our love and gratitude to one another. Fabienne is a nurse by trade and an exceptional person who has weathered her journey with a tremendous amount of grace and fortitude. I feel fortunate and blessed to have become a part of her and her children’s lives.
Discover More: You can read part 2 here.
Ghostwriter: Bev Hotchkiss is an accomplished and comprehensive freelance writer with over ten years of experience. As ghostwriter/editor for Patrick’s memoir, she helped Patrick express and reconcile some of his most traumatic and difficult emotions. Together they navigated the sensitive world of PTSD and Alzheimer’s to create an engaging and poignant story with the hopes of helping others understand themselves or their loved ones.
Image Credit: Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash