Facing kidnapping charge, father stays away from Austrian trial

Thomas Sørensen said that the risk of prison was too great for him to show up at the Austrian trial

A court in the Austrian city of Graz has halted the trial of a Danish man accused of kidnapping his son from his former partner after he failed to show up for the court hearing yesterday morning. According to Austrian news bureau APA, the case cannot be completed while he remains absent.

Thomas Sørensen’s lawyers had expected him to turn up for the case but told the presiding judge that he was concerned about the possibility he would be sentenced to prison. Sørensen was given a one-year suspended sentence last year for unlawful imprisonment, child abduction and serious assault for going to Austria and taking his son, Oliver, who was five at the time, out of the car belonging to his Austrian mother, Marion Weilharter, while she was dropping the boy off at kindergarten. A co-conspirator held Weilharter down while Sørensen grabbed Oliver and subsequently drove him back to Denmark.

The trial, part of a fierce cross-border custody battle, is now being retried after Austrian authorities ruled it a mistrial.

“He was very shocked by the first court case, but we believe that this shock will subside and he will come to Austria, perhaps in the near future,” Sørensen’s Austrian lawyers said before the judge halted the case, according to APA.

Sørensen had already told the press on Wednesday that he did not intend to show up at the court hearing in Austria because he didn’t have any faith in the Austrian justice system.

“The prosecutor there has said that they want a tougher sentence this time in order to make an example of the situation, so I think there is a definite risk that they could end up imprisoning me,” Sørensen told TV2 News. “And I don’t think it’s in Oliver’s interest that I go to prison, because who is going to take care of him then?”

The Danish courts have already ruled in favour of Sørensen and consider the case closed, but the courts in Austria gave sole custody to Oliver’s mother Marion Weilharter.

Weilharter, meanwhile, continues to battle for the custody of her son through the European Parliament and the United Nations, but was upset that the court case had been postponed.

"I feel just as bad today than I did yesterday and it is unpleasant to have to go through it all two or three times," Weilharter told TV2 News. "I just hope that this case is soon concluded and that my son returns to Austria."