Naomi Margaret LEAN-DURAN
Above - the family on a trip to Mexico shortly before Monica abducted Naomi.
Above - this is Naomi on her Dad John's shoulders with Naomi's mother Monica, who has taken her.
Above - Monica and Naomi at Naomi's birthday party
This information comes from John Lean, Naomi's Dad -
They are believed to be in a town called Huatulco in the state
of Oaxaca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huatulco)
If you have any information about Naomi's whereabouts please call the Australian Federal Police on 1800 000 634 (toll free) or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000
Please join the Facebook page by clicking here
For years, John Lean burst into tears if he opened his daughter’s toybox.
Naomi Margaret Lean Duran will be 14 this year, but wouldn’t remember the last time she hugged her father.
That was July 2008, when she was two years old, and her father knows he might never see Naomi again.
The mining engineer has spoken publicly for the first time of his anguish sparked when his estranged wife Monica abducted Naomi back to her home country Mexico.
He is among a relatively small but growing number of Australians caught up in the fraught world of International Parental Child Abduction.
John Lean and his family have almost no idea if Naomi knows she was born in Australia or has family here.
Mr Lean has endured what he and others have described as a form of grief that has not been resolved.
The grief of robbed of his adored daughter bubbles constantly in his mind.
Mr Lean believes the abduction was a callous and calculated plan by Monica, who he met in London several years prior.
Monica accused him of physically abusing her and molesting his young daughter in order to justify her unlawful flight home to Mexico.
His face contorts as he grapples to explain his feelings.
“I don’t know if she’s dead. Is she alive? I just don’t know,” he says.
“It feels like, for me, how a grieving parent would feel if their child had died.”
Monica has managed to conceal Naomi’s whereabouts or any trace of her, eluding a desperate and exasperating search by Mr Lean and his family.
A FIFO mining engineer, Mr Lean was eager to see his daughter, despite his marriage being on tenterhooks, when he flew from outback WA to their home in Perth.
But instead of being greeted with squeals of delight by Naomi, ashen-faced police officers were at his home to escort him through to grab a few possessions.
Even now he can see why some of the officers barely concealed their disdain.
After all, they had been told that he bashed his wife, molested his daughter and was a danger to both.
“What were the words? I molested my daughter, I bashed my wife and watched child porn. All bullshit,” he says.
“I was ripped apart, what just happened? I’ve done none of this shit, but she got in first and had a restraining order slapped on me.”
The FIFO worker’s shock deepened when he went to an ATM only to see the words “insufficient funds” blinking back at him off the screen.
He was now broke, accused of heinous acts and had nowhere to go.
Luckily, John’s brother Andrew had missed a flight in the same airport in Perth and paid for him to fly home to their parents in Geelong.
John’s mother Christine has been instrumental in the family’s quest to find Naomi and recalls the anxiety and fears her son would hurt or kill himself because of the false abuse allegations, which still anger the family and were thrown out of court.
Among decisions he now regrets was John‘s refusal to prevent Monica and Naomi leaving Australia through a legal injunction as advised by his lawyers, telling them: “No, she wouldn’t do that.”
“I thought I’ll pay for her house in Perth and keep the income going and we will just separate,” he says.
“ I was willing to keep supporting her and Naomi no matter where they lived.”
But his angst descended to confusion and anger when an email informed Mr Lean the Perth rental home was empty and that Monica had surreptitiously obtained a passport for Naomi.
“I think it was premeditated and she was trying to set this up for months before,” he says,
THE HAGUE MIRAGE
Many international parental abduction cases involve nations that are not signatories to The Hague Convention — but Mexico and Australia are, which gave the Lean family a life raft of false hope.
The Mexican court convened a hearing where a local lawyer would run their case after being hired by Mrs Lean.
She and the family refused to allow John to fly to Mexico to argue for part custody.
The gravity of the abuse claims made by Monica was too great, she says.
“We consider that if John had gone to Mexico then he would’ve been arrested by the Mexican authorities, because they would just take Monica’s side,” Mrs Lean says.
“We didn’t want him to stuff his life up by doing that. So I got this lawyer to go to the court case which ended with the court saying Monica gets to keep Naomi because John hadn’t gone to Mexico.”
The Catch-22 scenario for John Lean was clear, and even if he travelled to the notoriously-dangerous Mexico City where would he start?
“I thought that I could use the legal system that’s in place to say hey she’s been abducted, kidnapped from Australia so go and get her,” he says with a rueful laugh.
The two families had gotten on famously before the bust up, but Mrs Lean said there were a number of features of Monica’s family that caused them to worry.
“Monica’s family has cousins who are quite wealthy, there are houses where there are luxury cars lined up outside. One of those cousins was shot in his own house and their bedroom is virtually a jail cell, to stop anyone getting into there, which makes you think.”
The legal dead-end paved the way for a conciliatory approach led by Mrs Lean, who was able to act with more clarity and composure than her increasingly-troubled son.
She wrote letters, called Monica’s family and despite hitting mostly roadblocks, managed to establish that Naomi was well and living with relatives for a while until that person stopped corresponding and the trail went ice cold.
“Quite frankly, very quickly my hope turned from thinking she would be able to come back to Australia to wanting her to be able to contact John,” she says.
TOYS, TUTUS AND TEARS
Home videos and treasured photos provide a tiny but painful consolation, along with toys and clothes left behind.
The priceless keepsakes were too much for him to look at without bawling.
“I can watch a video of us now, but five years ago I couldn’t because I would burst out crying. But I have grown up a lot since then and faced facts,” he says simply.
“But now it’s good seeing the doll in there and the little ballerina tutu, so it would be nice one day to show her that.
“That is the only thing I have got. But I can still smell her and think of her and what we had in those first few years.”
“I’m telling you though, I still have times where I cry a lot, and all I can think is ‘what the hell has happened? How can this happen to me?’
The pain of the unknown repeatedly rears its beastly head as Mr Lean speaks of his ordeal.
“There’s someone who you’ve made through your own genes and suddenly she’s not in existence anymore — that hurts and there’s no closure — so yeah it is probably worse in some ways than if you knew your child was dead,” he explains.
Does Naomi even know she was born in Mt Isa in outback Queensland? Does she know of John and if so, has she been conditioned to regard him as the evil pariah who her mother saved her from?
The questions are endless, and there are few scenarios that John Lean has not mulled over in his darkest moments.
“Who knows who (Monica) is dating or if she is remarried and who has Naomi grown up with all these years?
“I’ve had no contact. Nothing. Zilch. The only contact was when Monica managed to look at my LinkedIn profile a couple of years ago.
The omnipresence of social media has surprisingly not provided a glimpse of Naomi, who seemingly has no Facebook, Instagram or other profiles — at least not under her name.
“Either she’s dead, or very diligent about who sees Naomi, or three that she has a very close circle of friends who don’t allow any photos of Naomi to go up online,” Mr Lean surmises.
Despite that, he believes the internet remains the only hope of him and Naomi reconnecting.
Christine Lean clings to one sliver of hope for the future.
“That Naomi knows that we exist, where we are and that she’s got 10 cousins, aunts and uncles and a big family group back here in Australia that love her and would welcome her if she ever wanted to come and see us,” she says.
“I haven’t given up hope. No, not at all. I hope that one day we see Naomi and that one day she knows that John exists and that he didn’t hurt her in any way and loved her.”
John Lean met his current wife Dwi online in 2009 and they married in Jakarta after about a year, and how have a six-year old son together.
He says Dwi and Arthur have rejuvenated his life.
“I can talk about anything with Dwi. I can talk about other people at work and she doesn’t get jealous like Monica used to,” he says.
John Lean documented his ordeal in a diary which he describes as “raw stuff” that prompts dark memories.
“If I do see Naomi I can show her and say ‘here, this is what I did, this is what I was doing to try and find you’.
“I can say that I’m not just the Daddy who left you, or whatever other nonsense has been put in her head.”
“I don’t think I did anything different with Monica than with Dwi, other than I drink less alcohol and Dwi helped me to get off the antidepressants.”
“Dwi was more wanting to know and understand me, and probably understands our way of life being from Indonesia.”
Mr Lean shudders to think where his life could be without the influence of Dwi and Arthur, who now live in the Adelaide Hills.
“I’ve thought about that a lot actually. I would probably be still lost, probably lots of booze.
“I needed someone to actually reach out to me and help me which is what she did and if I didn’t have that I daresay I probably wouldn’t still be here.
He can understand how some parents are driven to suicide through bitter custody wars.
“It happens every day, dads take their own lives in these situations,” he says.
“You need people to actually come and grab you and take you to do things and for people to visit them.”
“Dwi provided that conduit and was genuinely interested in what depression was and asked me some pretty hard tough questions — that’s the type of support people need in that situation.
Tempting but too extreme and harmful to Naomi, the Lean family eventually decided when faced with the offer to track and snatch Naomi from Mexico back to Australia.
Mr Chapman, featured in The Advertiser yesterday, met Christine Lean in a television studio several years ago when both took part in a forum on the thorny issue of international parental child abductions.
The private investigator and surveillance specialist has been involved in child recovery for 25 years and has forged a successful company, Child Recovery Australia.
Information gleaned by Col Chapman indicated Naomi, now nearly 14, was “in a good school” and healthy after her mother Monica took her unlawfully to Mexico in July 2008.
But Mr Lean could not take the extra step of abducting her — even when his daughter was young enough to be snatched back physically.
“I met Colin at a function and my mum said he does international recoveries and we got talking and for a sum of money he can go into a country and get kids back,” he recalls.
“I thought wow, I don’t want to do any of that. But you know what? Maybe I should have back then.”
Mr Lean says while “not much has come from that, there were never any guarantees”, meeting Mr Chapman has been a blessing.
“He showed a genuine interest in helping me, he showed me other cases and how it’s done and ones where it was done badly,” he says.
Christine Lean says taking the leap to instigating an abduction was never more than a drastic idea.
“We haven’t done that and just wouldn’t do it. It would just be too traumatic, it would be horrible,” Mrs Lean says. “We were adamant that Naomi had been through trauma and we were not going to increase that trauma. But that’s to our detriment in the end.”