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This article was published 25/6/2016 (1546 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It took police 16 minutes from the time they spotted Sandra Giesbrecht to put her in handcuffs.
The Winnipeg woman, wanted on a Canada-wide warrant issued Wednesday for allegedly kidnapping her own children from a Lumsden Avenue home, was spotted by police driving an SUV and later bolted from the vehicle, running into a city park just before 5:30 p.m. Friday. She has been charged with two counts of abduction and one count of flight from police.
Her son, Josh Giesbrecht, 9, and daughter, Montana Giesbrecht, 11, are in the hands of child-welfare authorities, and investigators are still interviewing them. As of Saturday afternoon, there was no word on when they’d be returned to their father’s custody.
A short vehicle chase ended in a foot pursuit after Giesbrecht hit a patrol car on Amherst Street in St. James, abandoned the vehicle in the 100 block of Deer Lodge Place and fled on foot into nearby Bruce Park.
'I don't know what was going on in her mind at the time, but she was making every effort to avoid us' ‐ Const. Jason Michalyshen
She was arrested at 5:36 p.m.
"She stopped the vehicle near Bruce Park, exited, fled with her children to a tree or shrub area, where she was trying to hide in bushes," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said at a news conference Saturday. "We continued to pursue her. I don’t know what was going on in her mind at the time, but she was making every effort to avoid us."
Police also confirmed details the Free Press initially reported, that evidence was recovered suggesting Giesbrecht was using a disguise. A wig was seen on the floor of the SUV, which didn’t belong to Giesbrecht, Michalyshen added. Whether she borrowed the vehicle or took it is still unclear.
Before she was arrested, officers couldn’t see the children in the SUV, Michalyshen said.
He wouldn’t speculate on whether the kids were hiding during the short car chase or if the children and the mother had slept in the Ford Expedition SUV at any time over the five days they were missing.
"I can tell you we did not (confirm) that the children were actually in that vehicle until the vehicle had stopped and they fled," Michalyshen told reporters.
Police say the chase to recover the two children, abducted from their father’s custody, was punctuated with moments of incredible tension before Giesbrecht was finally handcuffed and officers took back her children.
Michalyshen said police are "breathing a sigh of relief" the kids were OK.
"The last five days have been incredibly challenging for the Giesbrecht family, first and foremost, and for our missing-persons unit, stressful — working around the clock," Michalyshen said.
"I just got off the phone with Det.-Sgt. (Shaunna) Neufeld. She’s very tired this morning but very pleased we have Montana and Josh in a safe place."
As head of the missing-persons unit, Neufeld issued a heartfelt public plea Thursday from one mother to another to ask Giesbrecht to turn herself in and let the children go on.
Police said Saturday no other charges are currently pending against Giesbrecht or anyone she may have been in contact with while she was missing.
What happened during the five days they were missing is still a mystery, but the immediate goal is to help the kids regain a sense of stability, Michalyshen said.
"There are a lot of pieces we still have to sort through. Yes, we have her in custody. Yes, we’ve spoken to the children, but there are certain components to this investigation (where) we do need to dig further, with respect to the vehicle, specific individuals she may have had contact with. We need to (chronicle) the last five days," Michalyshen said.
"We don’t know what’s been going on for the last few days, but based on what was shared with me, the children are in good health. The officers that were directly responsible had them chuckling and laughing very very quickly, which was really nice to hear."
Updated on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 6:38 PM CDT: Corrects two misspellings of Michalyshyn.
9:34 PM: Minor edits
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