A 5-year-old pays the price for a bloody custody battle

Mother killed,accused father in jail,grandmother set to take Adela home to Mexico.

Written by Gopu Mohan | Madurai | Published: April 28, 2012 11:48 pm

What began as a battle for custody has ironically left Adela Berenice Mantrique Acosta,all of five,without either parent. Accused of killing her mother to keep Adela with him,father Martin Mantrique is in a Chennai prison on murder charges. The girl is set to return to Mexico with her paternal grandmother,where she may find herself in the middle of another legal battle as the mother’s side seeks her custody.

The police officials who had to separate the wailing,uncomprehending Adela from Mantrique and the caretakers at a children’s home on the outskirts of Madurai where the girl was eventually taken say the five-year-old girl’s plight moved even their hardened hearts.

“When we brought Martin to the police station,she clung on to him and refused to let him go. We could not leave her alone at their home as she is too young. It was terrible to see the angelic child cry endlessly even as we were trying to question him in the other room. Finally,some of the women personnel took her outside and consoled her,” said Inspector C Sethumanimadhavan,the investigating officer.

Mantrique told Adela he was going away for a while but that she would soon be with her grandmother.

According to officials,the strong attachment between Mantrique and his daughter was obvious,which allegedly led him to murder her mother Ceule Denise Acosta,who planned to take Adela to France.

“He is an educated and gentle person but became a murderer because he did not want to be separated from his daughter,” said the Inspector,adding that Mantrique had compounded his alleged crime by trying to hide it.

Adela was brought to Sakthi Vidiyal,a children’s home,on April 18. Mantrique was allowed to accompany her and spend some time with her before being taken to jail. On the first night,she cried to sleep asking for her father. But by the next morning,said officials,she seemed to have already calmed down.

“When we tried pacifying her saying her father would soon return to take her,she said she knew that wouldn’t happen as he was in prison. It was heartbreaking to hear her say that,” said Dr G Sharmila,the honorary project director of the home and a trained psychologist and counsellor. “She knows that her father is in prison,but does not know why. She has no idea what has happened to her mother,and we have decided it is not necessary to tell her anything now.”

Smart and intelligent,Adela settled down surprisingly fast at the home. The fact that she knows basic Tamil and had got used to the local food living with her father in Tamil Nadu for a year helped.

“She loves listening to stories. Sometimes,she joined in telling us stories she knew,” said C Jim Jesudoss,who started the home about two decades ago.

A two-judge bench of the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench handed over Adela to Mantrique’s mother Monica on Thursday. That was after her DNA samples had been collected to confirm that the charred body the police suspect to be her mother’s was really hers.

Once she returns to Mexico though,Adela may find herself in the middle of another legal battle. Ceule’s mother too had approached the Madurai Bench seeking Adela’s custody. Giving the five-year-old to the father’s family,Justices M Vijayaraghavan and S Rajeswaran directed Mexican Embassy officials to keep monitoring her welfare,and said her maternal relatives could approach court in Mexico for getting her custody.

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