The father of a 24-year-old autistic woman from New Zealand, who ran away and came to India, has decided to seek the help of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after Indian police said that they can’t force his daughter to go back. Jessica Doody, who is said by the family to have the mental age of 14, changed her name and flew out of the country even though a court order was in place against her flying out of New Zealand alone.
“Jessica was autistic and had dyspraxia, which affected her ability to gauge social situations,” Jessica’s sister Sarah Doody told the Times of India, adding that Jessica has limited understanding of people’s intentions. “The family was apprehensive that she was not safe in India and if at all she disappeared we would never be able to get back to her,” Sarah said, the report added.
The Indian police is reported to have said that she cannot be sent back since she is a major and has legal documents to travel.
Jessica was traced by the Indian police to Patiala, where she is living with her boyfriend’s parents. Doody had fallen into a debt of $50,000 when she lived with her boyfriend in New Zealand. Her family believes that she was “brainwashed” into leaving New Zealand.
Jessica flew to Patiala via Guangzhou on March 16, traveling as Kathleen Gray-Anttal, to be reunited with her boyfriend, Gurdeep Singh, aka Garry Anttal.
Five agencies, including the Interpol, were involved in looking for her, reports said. Her father, Craig Doody, a broker from Christchurch, traveled to New Delhi to start searching for her. He was finally able to meet her on April 5.
He was told that Jessica has been living with Singh and his parents in Patiala.
“I was allowed to ask her five questions and she just said she was staying in India and that she totally hated the family,” Craig Doody told the NZ Herald. “I was blown away. I said, ‘Jess, why are you saying this? I’ve flown halfway around the world for you.’ It was pretty horrendous. She’s been brainwashed and I think she has been groomed. She’s madly in love with this guy and can’t see what’s happening to her,” he said.
Jessica told the police that her father beat her and that she wants nothing to do with her family. He was allowed to meet Jessica only at the Patiala Police Station, where the Commissioner of Police was also present. He said that the police forced him to leave Patiala.
“The whole situation is just a nightmare and sadly I have to pull out of Patiala without my daughter,” he said. “I’m really concerned for her safety – I have serious safety concerns.”
He blamed the New Zealand government for failing Jessica.
The New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi told Craig that the local police found Singh’s family living in a flat in Patiala.
“Jessica said she’s been staying with his parents all this time and they’ve been lovely to her,” Sarah told the Herald NZ.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that it was giving consular assistance to Craig.