A Somerset mother who went on the run with her child after losing a custody battle has said she fled because she "felt trapped."
Rebecca Minnock disappeared with her son Ethan more than two weeks ago after a court ruled that the boy should live with his father, Roger Williams after finding that Minnock had made false allegations and obstructed contact between father and son. Ethan, who was born in January 2012, has lived with his mother since his parents split up in February 2013.
The 35-year-old has now broken her silence to explain her desperate actions as she remains in hiding.
"I just lost all trust and faith in the system completely," she said in an interview with The Sun newspaper. "I just couldn't bear to leave my son. I just felt trapped."
Minnock added that both she and Ethan are safe and well, and "he is very happy".
"I know I'm going to be in a huge, huge amount of trouble. I've even got family members into trouble but it's my son and I need to put him first over myself or anybody else."
Before the hearing, she had been advised that Ethan would be taken to live with his father. She was due to appear in court in Bristol but failed to appear.
At the missed hearing, the judge ruled that Ethan, should live with his father and Minnock should only have supervised contact.
The judge said the three-year-old had been exposed to "emotional harm" by his mother and she had breached previous court orders.
Her mother Louise Minnock, who has since been ordered to court to account for her daughter's whereabouts, said her daughter was "very upset" ahead of the hearing.
"She said she had had enough of being failed," she explained. Louise wept as she told the court she had not heard from her daughter since the disappearance. "I miss them terribly," she said. "I love Ethan to death and I want them home. It breaks my heart to think that she is doing this and she is going to lose everything."
She attended court along with Minnock's brother Marvin Shaw and sister Limmie Shaw. They informed the judge they did not know where she was and had not been in contact with them.
Judge Wildblood warned Minnock's family that they would face contempt of court and perjury charges if they were not 'candid' about what they knew.
"If there's any untruthfulness at this stage then it would be perjury. The stakes are now exceptionally high. We need to make sure this child is found. I have suspicions that you know more," the judge told them. "The enquiries go on and Ethan will be found so the longer it lasts the worse it gets for everyone."
Minnock's brother, Shaw from Highbridge, told the court he did not know where Minnock and Ethan were but said he had received three phone calls from her.
The phone calls, from a withheld number to his mobile phone, were short and Minnock simply stated they were 'safe and well', he said.
"I just know that if my sister is with her little boy I know that she is keeping him safe," Shaw said. "I think if they weren't safe she would have come back."
At a news conference this afternoon, DCI Marie Wright announced that the search for Minnock and her son has been widened to Cheltenham and Birmingham following possible sightings.
DCI Wright said: "It is fairly unusual for a court to lift the reporting restrictions, allowing us to act as their agents and continue the search for Becky and her son. Since they were last seen in Taunton on May 26, we have reports that they have been spotted in the Cheltenham area and more recently in the Birmingham area of the West Midlands.
"Becky is evading a court protection order while Ethan has become a ward of court. We need to find them very, very quickly. I am asking for friends and family to come forward as soon as they can and tell us where she is. We are worried about the emotional impact this will have on both of them. They cannot evade the court order forever," she explained.
"I am asking anyone who has seen them to contact us. It is very urgent. Ethan is only three years old. She knows she is hiding from the court."
Her aunt Caroline Minnock, 54, a cleaner, from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire said that she fears Minnock's actions have jeopardised her future chances of access. "I think she's in big trouble [now she has left]. I know for a fact now that she won't see him again. She won't even get visitation."
Minnock's family have launched a campaign, insisting she has been treated unfairly and 'let down' by social services, police and the courts.
Her sister has started an online petition - which has 1,689 signatures - and a Facebook group to support her sister.
A statement released on behalf of the boy's father Roger Williams says he is working with authorities to ensure Ethan is found.
The mother-of-one, who does not drive, was taken off in a black Ford Focus, which appeared to head for Cheltenham, where members of her family live.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Somerset Investigations on the force number 101, quoting reference MP2189/15/.