A mother ran away with her three-year-old son as part of a calculated plan to win public support and overturn a judge's decision to award his father full custody, it was claimed today.
Andrew Butt, the partner of Rebecca Minnock's mother who drove her to Cheltenham on the day she went missing, told Bristol Crown Court that the plan was to use the pair's time in hiding to drum up interest in the ongoing battle over where Ethan should live.
Butt and Rebecca's mother Louise were both jailed for lying over their disappearance.
ITV News reporter Peter Smith was in court:
A man who has been jailed for helping a woman flee with her toddler son - and then lied about it to police - has issued a written statement pleading with her to come home.
Andrew Butt, aged 56, was jailed for 28 days for contempt of court by a judge at Bristol Crown Court today for lying about helping Rebecca Minnock escape with three-year-old Ethan.
Rebecca's mother Louise, 52, was jailed for 10 days for also repeatedly lying to officers and to the court.
Butt drove Rebecca to Cheltenham on May 27 to help her disappear, after a judge granted full custody to Ethan's father.
In a written statement, Butt pleaded with her to return home, adding:
Becky, you need to seriously look at the situation. It's only going to get worse, not just for you but for all of us.
There are some very good people who will help and support you.
We have made our point, we have our support. Come home.
The grandmother of a three-year-old boy missing with his mother has been jailed for contempt of court after lying about the pair's disappearance.
Louise Minnock was jailed at Bristol Crown Court for 10 days, while her partner Andrew Butt - who has now admitted driving Rebecca Minnock and her son Ethan to Cheltenham on the day they disappeared - was jailed for 28 days.
The pair have not been seen since May 27, when CCTV caught Rebecca taking money out of a cash machine in Highbridge, Somerset, before climbing into Butt's car and heading for Cheltenham.
Her mother and Butt repeatedly told police and the court they did not know where they were.
Minnock told the court today she had been "scared" to admit what she knew.
Louise Minnock sentenced to 10 days in prison. Their contempts are twofold: not giving info to help find Ethan, and lying to the court.
The family of missing mother Rebecca Minnock have committed "serious contempts of court" by hiding details of where she went when she disappeared with her three-year-old son Ethan, a judge has ruled.
Miss Minnock's mother Louise Minnock knew she had gone to Cheltenham as she had been told by her partner, Andrew Butt, who had driven her there himself, the court heard - but did not say anything because she was "scared".
ITV News West Country reporter Caron Bell is in court for the hearing:
Louise Minnock tells court that AB told her he'd taken RM to Cheltenham.
LM says she didn't mention her knowledge to police originally because she was scared: calls that decision 'stupid'
Judge says he's in no doubt that LM and AB have committed serious contempts of court. Court adjourned
A friend of the Somerset woman who is missing with her three-year-old son has told a court how he helped her flee - and believes that he can persuade her to hand herself in.
Andrew Butt, a long-distance lorry driver, admitted that he took Rebecca Minnock and Ethan Minnock to Cheltenham on May 27, when the 35-year-old decided to go on the run with her son.
The mother-of-one wanted to avoid handing the boy over to his father, Roger Williams, after a court awarded him custody of Ethan.
Mr Butt, who is the partner of Minnock's mother, apologised to the judge at Bristol Crown Court for "telling him a pack of lies" yesterday.
The 56-year-old was due to be sentenced by Judge Wildblood for contempt yesterday, but asked to be sworn back into the witness box to change his account.
He said today that he doesn't know where Ms Minnock is now, but wants to "get out and find her ... I'm confident I can bring her home."
I swear I don't know where Becky is at this point in time," he said. "That doesn't mean I can't find out.
ITV News West Country reporter Caron Bell was in court for the hearing:
Andrew Butt: RM asked me for money and help, and said she couldn't stand thought of losing Ethan: I suggested going to Cheltenham
AB: Plan was to keep her away for as long as possible and generate maximum publicity. Relatives not told so they wouldn't get in trouble.
AB: I swear I don't know where RM is now, but I want to get out and find her, via Facebook. I'm confident I can bring her home.
Police have issued a direct video appeal to a Somerset woman who is on the run with her three-year-old son to hand herself in.
Rebecca Minnock, 35, went missing with Ethan Minnock more than two weeks ago after losing a long-running custody battle with the boy's father, Roger Williams.
The mother-of-one has since contacted a number of newspapers to say she took her son because she felt "trapped" but "she knew she couldn't do this forever".
DCI Marie Wright, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary speaks directly to the camera in the two-and-a-half minute video uploaded to YouTube today:
You’ve said that you think you’re going to be in a huge amount of trouble for what you’ve done, but I want to make sure that you and Ethan are safe and we need to reach a solution that's best for you both.
I know what you’ve said to the newspapers is that you want to hand yourself in, and I want to talk to you about how we can do that together.
A mother who is on the run with her three-year-old son has said she "couldn't bear" to lose her son Ethan.
But today a judge urged Rebecca Minnock to turn herself in, saying both parents needed a relationship with the child.
It comes as Andrew Butt, the former partner of Miss Minnock's mother, was held in contempt of court after a judge at Bristol Crown Court ruled he had lied about his knowledge of her disappearance.
ITV News' Peter Smith reports:
A family friend of a mother on the run with her missing three-year-old son faces prison after a judge found he had been "utterly untruthful" about their disappearance.
Judge Stephen Wildblood QC ruled Andrew Butt "told a string of lies" to police and in court about his knowledge of the disappearance of Rebecca Minnock and her son Ethan.
The only reason for him to have done so is that he knows precisely where Rebecca and Ethan went that morning because he took them to Cheltenham himself in his motor car.
Butt, 56, the partner of Miss Minnock's mother, was remanded into custody at Bristol Crown Court where he will return tomorrow to be sentenced.
The judge said he had the power to imprison Mr Butt, fine him or seize his assets after finding him guilty of breaching the terms of a collection order - an order made by the judge on Becky's family members ordering them to hand over Ethan, or any information which might help find him, to the authorities.
A judge hearing the case of a mother on the run with her three-year-old son has emphasised the importance of both parents maintaining a relationship with the boy "if at all possible".
Judge Stephen Wildblood QC told Bristol Crown Court the court, press and police are all working to find Ethan Williams, who is missing with his mother Rebecca Minnock and that he was "very grateful" for the help.
He said: "I know the mother has contacted The Sun and has expressed some views about what she thinks may occur.
"I think it is important to put right - so the public can understand - the seriousness with which the court takes in approaching the task of ensuring that both parents, if at all possible, maintain an effective relationship with the child."
The father of a three-year-old boy who is missing along with his mother has said "the welfare and safe return of his only child" is his priority.
Rebecca Minnock, 35, and her son Ethan Williams, disappeared from her home in Highbridge, Somerset, two weeks ago after a court ruled the boy should live with his father Roger Williams.
A statement issued on behalf of Mr Williams said he was working closely with the authorities and that his priority was the "safe return" of Ethan.
This is a very difficult time for Roger Williams and his family.
The welfare and safe return of his only child, Ethan, is understandably his priority.
Mr Williams is working closely with the authorities to ensure Ethan is located and the decision of the court is upheld.
No further comment will be given to the press at this time and we request that Mr Williams is given space and privacy.