Birmingham mother left children home alone to fly to Australia
A mother-of-six who flew to Australia for six weeks after telling her son she was going to the supermarket has been given a suspended jail sentence.
The Birmingham woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, left her 14-year-old son in charge when she went to stay with a boyfriend on 2 January.
The teenager called his grandparents, who alerted authorities.
She pleaded guilty to six counts of wilful abandonment at Birmingham Crown Court.
'Refused to fly home'
Sentencing her to a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Murray Creed said it was "plainly a serious matter".
The court heard the woman's flight was paid for by a man she met online.
On the day of her disappearance the woman, who is now pregnant with her seventh child, left the house at 17:00 GMT. Her son called his grandparents, who do not live in Birmingham, four hours later. They alerted police and social services, who arrived at the house at 01:00 the following day.
The youngest of the children left at home was three years old.
The mother, a single parent, ignored messages from her parents and the police, deactivated her social media accounts and refused to fly home until her scheduled return six weeks later, the court heard.
She was arrested when she got back in February.
'Unaffected by experience'
The children are now living with their grandparents.
John Smitheman, defending the woman, told the court they were thriving academically and unaffected by the experience.
He said the woman had been a good mother but had been in an abusive relationship.
He said the stress of bringing the children up alone had led to a "very unusual, almost unique circumstance".
The court was shown cards made by her children saying they were missing their mother.
Judge Creed said the children had been brought up in "a satisfactory and supportive way throughout their lives so far".
"You've cared for them against a difficult background", he said.
"You didn't appreciate you'd done anything wrong and were not prepared to return."