When Emily Cablek last saw her children, her son was seven and her daughter was six.
That was August 2008, when Dominic and Abby never came back from a court-ordered visit with their dad, Kevin Maryk.
On Friday, the Winnipeg woman received the news she has been waiting to hear for almost four years — her children, now 11 and nine, have been found safe and sound in a fortified house in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Cablek couldn’t be reached for comment on Saturday, but two of the key people who helped the rescue take place were happy they could help.
Juan Manuel Estrada Juárez, president of the FIND Foundation, which helps locate missing people in Mexico, said on the group’s Facebook page Mexican police have made arrests in connection with the case.
"We are extremely pleased by the outcome of this situation," Juárez said.
"We hope nothing but the best for the minors. Mission accomplished."
Mexican media are reporting that besides the arrest of the father of the children, authorities also have in custody Maryk’s nephew Cody McKay, 23, and 41-year-old Robert Groen, his former neighbour.
Wilhelm von Mayer, a computer digital forensics expert in Louisiana, credited a man in Mexico for helping rescue the Maryk children.
"He’s the real hero here," von Mayer said on Saturday.
"He had noticed the kids before and that they didn’t go to school. He came forward when he recognized the children on TV. He first went to the Mexican authorities, police and army, but got nowhere. Then he called me.
"I just happened to know the president of the FIND Foundation so I contacted him. Then he and the neighbour contacted the police and on (Friday) at 15:00 hours Interpol made the raid."
Von Mayer said police found weapons inside the house, as well as child pornography and drugs. He said they also found guard dogs on the premises, surveillance video cameras, barbed wire and locked doors.
"All we know now is they found these items and the kids are on their way back to Canada," he said.
Winnipeg police said last year they believed McKay helped with the abduction of the children while Groen hadn’t been seen in Canada since February 2011. Police issued a warrant for Groen’s arrest last September and took the unusual move of releasing a video of the child-abduction case, hoping it would spark leads.
Winnipeg police were being tight-lipped on Saturday about the rescue of the children.
Police would only confirm in a statement a "significant development" in the case occurred on Friday in Mexico, but said they would not be commenting further until Monday.
Aug. 16, 2008: Children go on two-week holiday with their father, Kevin Maryk, 37. Their mother, Emily Cablek, 26, has custody of the children but Maryk is authorized to visit with them.
Sept. 1, 2008: Children are due to be returned to their mother but Maryk fails to drop theme off at her home.
Sept. 2008: A Canada-wide warrant is issued for Maryk. Police say they believe he abducted the children. Abby is six and Dominic is 7. Cablek, 26, pleads for the return of her children. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be with me — they should be able to love both their parents," a tearful Cablek said. "It’s not fair to them."
Cablek said Maryk threatened to kidnap the children if she left him.
Aug. 2009: Police say Kevin Maryk’s nephew, Cody Mackay, 20, hasn’t been seen since Aug. 16, 2008. A warrant is issued for his arrest and an appeal is issued for the public’s help in locating the men and the two children. At the news conference, Cablek comments on the possibility Mckay is involved. "Cody has always been a really good kid," said Cablek, who said she believes he’s following his uncle’s behaviour. "I just hope that he doesn’t want to destroy his life by keeping my kids away from me and also destroying my kids’ life, which will impact them forever." Police say they believe the men may be in contact with people in Winnipeg, or getting money or places to stay while Maryk illegally harbours the kids.
Police post a video appeal by Cablek on YouTube, hoping it’ll result in tips.
Aug. 2009: As the abduction closes in on a year, television’s America’s Most Wanted posts the case on its website.
Sept. 2011: As another anniversary of her children’s disappearance rolls around, Cablek starts a trust fund to help fund the search for her children, who police say are out of the country. Cablek says she wants to hire a private investigator to help return her kids home. "If the kids aren’t in Canada, like I have been told, then I know there’s only so much the police can do from here," she said.
Sept. 15, 2011: A Canada-wide warrant is issued for the arrest of Robert Groen, a friend of Kevin maryk who police accuse of helping to kidnap Abby and Dominic. Groen is charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence
Dec. 2011: Police release another YouTube video showing age-progression photos of the children. Det. Sgt. Shaunna Neufeld describes the case as "extreme." Cablek tells her children "I know when I’ll be whole again is when you’ll be by my side."
May 2012: A tipster lets authorities know the children are holed up in an apartment in Guadalajara, Mexico. Police rescue Abby and Dominic and arrest their father, and Robert Groen. The apartment has barbed wire, surveillance cameras and is patrolled by dogs.