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Family fears for New Zealander in India

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A father, whose autistic daughter changed her name and followed her boyfriend to his native India, fears she has been brainwashed. Five agencies, including Interpol, have been involved in the hunt for Jessica Doody. Her family has tracked her to the southeastern Punjab city of Patiala but has been unable to persuade local police to get her on a flight home. They say the young woman, who has the mental age of a 14-year-old, fell $50,000 into debt when she was with her boyfriend in New Zealand and can be easily manipulated in India.

Doody, aged 24, flew to northern India via Guangzhou on March 16, travelling as Kathleen Gray-Anttal, to be reunited with her boyfriend, Gurdeep Singh, aka Garry Anttal. After New Zealand police told the family that she was in India, her father Craig Doody, a broker from Christchurch, travelled to New Delhi to start searching for her. Last night, the desperate dad was finally reunited with her after local police tracked her down. She has been staying with Singh and his parents, the Doody family has been told.

Both Sarah and Craig Doody impressed on authorities that Jessica has mental deficiencies and needs to be reunited with her family. Last night, police confirmed Doody was reported missing by her family on March 19.

But it was a heartbreaking experience for Craig, with his daughter telling police that he’d beaten her, that she wanted nothing to do with him – and wanted to stay in India with her boyfriend and his parents. He described their emotional meeting in Patiala police station, where he was flanked by the police commissioner, around 10 other officers, and Singh. He was only allowed to see her at the police station, only after promising he wouldn’t get violent with her. His cellphone was confiscated when he tried to take a photograph of her.

“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 Herald from his Patiala hotel room today. “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.”

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After the brief encounter, where he thought his daughter looked healthy but appeared to have prepared her words carefully, Craig Doody says police told him he needs to leave town. He says police will escort him to the bus station in the morning (mid-afternoon NZ time) where he’s expected to make the 7-hour journey to New Delhi.

Craig says he now has fears for his own safety.

“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.”

“I need to get to Delhi and re-evaluate. All the [New Zealand] government departments have failed Jessica. We need to get her out and New Zealand needs to fix this. To be a New Zealander, I’m actually quite embarrassed about how they have handled this and someone needs to be held accountable.”

A father, whose autistic daughter changed her name and followed her boyfriend to his native India, fears she has been brainwashed. Five agencies, including Interpol, have been involved in the hunt for Jessica Doody.

Singh left New Zealand on December 17 last year, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) confirmed last night. Doody’s Christchurch family said the naive, innocent woman, who is on the autism spectrum and suffers from dyspraxia, would be terrified without her support network. They were so concerned she would leave for India that they had earlier succeeded in getting a court-imposed travel ban on her original passport.

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After the family filed a missing persons report last month, New Zealand police told them last Wednesday that Doody had left the country and was now in India. Doody’s phone has since been switched off and her Facebook account disabled. Craig Doody, immediately booked flights to New Delhi, and after waiting in Thailand for four days while a visa application was processed, he’s been desperately searching for her.

In an email to the family, seen by the Herald, the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi say local police traced Singh’s family to a flat in Patiala. His parents said they had seen him and Doody. “Jessica said she’s been staying with his parents all this time and they’ve been lovely to her,” elder sister Sarah Doody, 26, told the Herald from her Christchurch home last night where she waited worriedly with her mother, Bridget Gray.

Both Sarah and Craig Doody impressed on authorities that Jessica has mental deficiencies and needs to be reunited with her family. Last night, police confirmed Doody was reported missing by her family on March 19. “Police made a number of inquiries with family members and acquaintances of Jessica’s. Information obtained from them suggested that Jessica may have been planning to travel overseas,” a police spokeswoman said.

“We understand the significant concerns that Jessica’s family has for her welfare, and we have put them in touch with MFAT to see what assistance can be provided on the ground in India.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is providing consular assistance to Doody’s family.

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