Father attacks kindergarten teacher, hauls daughter away

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PHOTO: Corbis/Scanpix

How to take the news that an angry father, under approach ban, hit a hindering teacher in the face, grabbed the sleeping child and run off? In Tallinn, the situation was solved by successful raid by special police unit.

«In hindsight, we know the case was quite safe,» recalls Priit Pärkna, crisis management team member at Northern Police Prefecture, regarding the operation carried out last year. «Even so, we had to react based on worst possible scenario. Being prepared for the child’s life and health endangered.»

Only after the operation came to its successful end, five hours later in Saue, it turned out the father meant no harm and was about to return the daughter to mother.

The operation, among the most intriguing in recent memory, kicked off at a Kristiine kindergarten, in Tallinn, in winter of 2013. About 14:40 pm, as the kids were taking their afternoon nap, Hendrik -. Father of a three year old girl – entered the facilities. 

At the time, the parents were in the middle of a debate over rights to care for the child. By the mother, kindergarten teachers had been told the father should not come to get the daughter from kindergarten. Therefore, a teacher confronted the father, trying to hinder him from getting to the children.

The father was agitated to begin with. A little while before, he had learnt from the older daughter, a school kid, that the mother forbids them to communicate with father. You are no longer allowed to come get me from school the daughter had said.

The ominous sin register

No wonder the father, forced to hear a repeat of the mother’s ban at the kindergarten, got agitated. The man, working in Norway, had come to Estonia especially for the sake of the children, now feeling his rights had been infringed.

Quoting a teacher’s testimony in criminal case: «Thereat, Henrik got stirred up and pushed me by the shoulders, twice, the third time hitting me in the face so as to cause bleeding in the lower lip.»

Having passed by the first teacher, Henrik was met by another. Pushing that one aside, as well, the man headed to the bed of his daughter. Grabbing the sleeping child, the father wrapped her in a coat to keep her warm, and left with her in his arms.

The angry father drove off in an Audi, carrying Lithuanian number plates. Promptly, the kindergarten director announced the police. The police contacted mother, who hinted at father being possibly violent.

Thus, the police was forced to reach with all seriousness, not excluding the worst – the agitated man hurting himself and the kid. The man having quite a sin register, the police was the more suspicious. 

«We understandably reacted to the worst scenario possible,» Mr Pärkna explains. The situation was made worse as Harju County mobile police units, having been alerted,  failed to find father and child at the man’s dwelling in Saue, neither at grandmother’s place in Nõmme, Tallinn.

To the crisis headquarters created at Northern Prefecture, about a dozen people were assembled by working day’s end. Positioning the father’s mobile phone proved of little value – two initial positioning, at a couple of minutes’ interval, showed the phone-owner was driving around.

The third attempt at positioning proved futile. It was 17:59 pm. The man’s phone was switched off.

With that, the police lost hope to have a talk to the man, regarding his motives. Police mobile units were commanded to keep a close eye on black Audi A4 cars, with red-backdropped foreign number plates, driving in Tallinn or near neighbourhood.

Fearing hostage taking, strike teams and an attack dog were brought into readiness. At 18:56 pm, finally, the police got a good lead: Henrik’s car was standing in front of his rental apartment, in Saue.

Striking the car

The police started cracking their brains how to best solve the situation. «In a situation like this, Police can’t just go and kick the door down. We have to plan our moves and that’s what we set to do,» recalls Mr Pärkna.

Less than half an hour later, at 19:21 pm, the situation suddenly solved itself. Before the eyes of policemen, waiting outside, Henrik came out with the daughter, and entered the car. That very instant, strike team hit. The girl was assumed by a female negotiator.

«All went smooth, as the father wasn’t expecting a strike of any sort,» says Mr Pärkna. «According to the father, he was just about to take the child back to mother, for the evening. In hindsight, we may say there was no danger actually.»

Regarding hitting the teacher, Northern Circuit Prosecutor’s Office initiated criminal proceedings. Henrik never admitted he hit the teacher in the face, claiming he just pushed her off to get to the child.

Two months later, the investigation was called off due to lack of necessary elements of a criminal offence. The angry father did not purposefully hurt the teacher’s lip; a careless act, this is not considered criminal offence.

According to criminal bureau chief, all parties and the public surely have lessons to learn, from the incident. «Quarrels of this sort, over children – several of such happen in a year; this one turned out much more colourful due to the conflict at the kindergarten,» said Mr Pärkna.

According to him, children come in handy as manipulating-tools in parental issues. Meanwhile, kindergarten staff isn’t supposed to know is court disputes are happening regarding rights over the children, or whether a court has already passed a judgement.

«If a father thinks he has the right to see his children, and is banned from doing so, emergency situations like this may occur. With these, 30-40 people are busy, at the police. This is a lot of people,» notes Mr Pärkna.