In June 1987 in Toronto, Canada, two-year-old Jermaine Allan Mann suddenly disappeared without a trace. And for more than three decades afterwards, the child’s mother, Lyneth, was left to wonder what had become of her beloved son. Then in 2018 police in Connecticut uncovered a secret identity – and finally revealed the terrible truth.
Born in 1985, Jermaine was just a baby when his parents – Jamaican-Canadian Lyneth and her partner Allan – decided to separate. But despite this unfortunate family development, Lyneth remembers Jermaine as a happy and energetic boy. According to the mother, in fact, Jermaine was blessed with huge brown eyes, had a penchant for grapes and enjoyed dancing along to the radio.
And although Lyneth and Allan called it quits in 1986, Jermaine continued to see his father during organized visitations. It was actually for one of these arranged meetups that on June 24, 1987, Allan was in Toronto, Canada. According to the initial plan, then, Allan was supposed to return the boy to a dollar store on Islington Avenue in the north of the city.
But Jermaine and Allan seemingly never appeared. So a panicked Lyneth justifiably reported her son as missing to the authorities. Yet even though police in Toronto conducted an exhaustive search, no trace of the boy could be found. In her late twenties at the time, Lyneth was understandably distraught by the disappearance of her only child.
Over the years, then, a number of different agencies tried to get to the bottom of Jermaine’s mysterious disappearance. But despite the involvement of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC), there were seemingly no real leads. And as time continued to pass, the devastated mother could only continue to hope that one day she would be able to see her son again.
Lyneth said as much herself in a Toronto Star that appeared almost two years after Jermaine vanished. “I pray not to let it go on,” she told the paper in 1989. “It is sheer hell. Not a day, not an hour, not a minute goes past that I don’t think of Jermaine. This is killing me inside.”
And with no way of knowing what had happened to her child, Lyneth had only her pictures as tangible reminders of Jermaine. In 1989, too, she used these images in an attempt to raise awareness of Jermaine’s case. Lyneth in fact attended a picnic hosted by the Canadian organization Child Find, which works to publicize cases of missing youngsters. The group then released 5,000 balloons – some of which contained photographs of Lyneth’s lost son – over the Toronto suburb of Oakville.
But despite these efforts, Jermaine’s case remained cold. And even though authorities apparently suspected that Allan had abducted the boy and taken him over the border to the United States, police were unable to track the absent father down. Instead, they kept the story alive via relevant networks and publicized age progression photographs as the years passed.
The Canadian investigators’ efforts unfortunately failed to generate any leads – but they refused to give up on Jermaine. And across the border, there was seemingly equal dedication. For instance, the boy’s story featured on the Charley Project, which is a database dedicated to publicizing missing person cases in the United States.
Throughout Lyneth’s ordeal, however, there was one man in particular who remained a beacon of hope: former policeman Ted Davis. Davis has been investigating for MCSC for almost 30 years. And according to Amanda Pick, who is the association’s CEO, Davis exhibited an unusual dedication to solving Jermaine’s disappearance.
“[Davis] made a promise to Lyneth and her family that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Jermaine was brought home,” Pick told the Toronto Star in 2018. And finally, in 2016 – almost 30 years after the boy had vanished – there came a break in the decades-old case.
That year, you see, Davis was attending a conference alongside representatives of the United States government as well as members of the Toronto police force. So at the event, the attendees began talking about Jermaine’s disappearance. And with interest in the case sparked anew, it seemingly wasn’t long before investigators had some fresh leads to follow.
Then, by the end of summer 2018, investigators had made contact with a number of Allan’s acquaintances. Some of them had even apparently suggested that the missing man might have made his way to Connecticut – almost 500 miles east of Toronto in New England. And one of Allan’s friends also let slip a vital clue that would finally lead police to Jermaine.
According to the source, you see, Allan was now going by a new name: Hailee Randolph DeSouza. Now, armed with this alias, investigators were able to search official databases – as well as social media – for the fugitive. And the authorities hit upon a match: a man and child residing in Vernon. This is a town close to the Connecticut capital of Hartford.
With the answer to the mystery finally in sight, then, investigators enlisted the help of a forensic expert to crack the case. And by examining the driver’s license photo that was on record for DeSouza’s son – whose alias has not been released – the team were able to confirm what they had been hoping for: he and Jermaine were probably one and the same.
“Modern technology has helped immensely in this case,” Wayne Banks, who is a detective sergeant with the Toronto Police, told the Toronto Star in 2018. “Once the potential subject was recognized, we used facial recognition through the U.S. and through Canada where Mr. Mann was positively identified.”
So, against all the odds, investigators had finally managed to track down the missing boy – who was now a 33-year-old man. And on October 26, 2018, Allan was arrested at the Vernon apartment that he had reportedly been sharing with Jermaine since 2004. Police suspect, then, that Allan had fled Toronto with his son and traveled to the United States.
And while in America, Allan had apparently managed to acquire fake documents that had identified him and Jermaine as having been born in Houston, Texas. At first, though, the pair had seemingly resided in the New York borough of the Bronx. But the father and son had allegedly later moved on to North Carolina and then Connecticut, where they are thought to have lived for around two decades.
In Vernon, Allan is also believed to have used false documents to register for a subsidized apartment. He’d apparently found employment as a trucker, too, and an engineer, while his son works for the state. “They lived basically a life of lies as to who they were [and] what they did – unbeknownst to Jermaine,” Banks explained at a press conference.
In fact, it appears as though Allan had told his son that Lyneth had passed away during childbirth. But when the father was arrested, the truth finally came out. And after his father’s apprehension, Jermaine stood weeping in court as Allan was charged with making fraudulent statements to the authorities.
This was not the first time that Allan had appeared in court, however. Records show, in fact, that he had repeatedly filed lawsuits over the years. And on each occasion, the Ghanaian and Canadian citizen had claimed that he had been the victim of discrimination – although he had failed to win any of his cases against his former landlords or employers.
Yet although the court touched upon the kidnapping allegations, Allan did not face charges relating to this crime. Instead, he is awaiting extradition to Canada, where he is expected to face further charges. Jermaine, meanwhile, is presumably coming to terms with the fact that his father has lied to him for most of his life – and that his mother is still alive.
Back in Toronto, though, Lyneth finally received the news for which she had spent three decades waiting and hoping. “Words can’t express what I felt,” she said at a press conference in 2018. “The words, ‘Your son is alive; we’ve found him,’ that is breathtaking.” And the mother then boarded a plane bound for Connecticut to reunite with her long-lost son.
According to reports, in fact, Lyneth was overwhelmed to finally see Jermaine again after all these years. “I grabbed him and squeezed his head; I want to feel if he’s real,” she said. “I touched him, [and] I said, ‘Oh my God, my baby.’” And although Jermaine has not yet given any public interviews, Lyneth claims that her son touchingly remarked that they share the same eyes.
So, after reuniting with Jermaine at last, Lyneth finally spent time with her son and learned all about his life over the past 31 years. And she even brought the ingredients to prepare Jermaine a home-cooked dinner – only to find out that he does not eat meat. Touchingly, though, Jermaine made an exception. “He said, ‘You know what, Mommy? Cook the chicken. I’m gonna eat the chicken,’” Lyneth recalled.
For now, though, it remains unclear whether or not Lyneth and Jermaine will relocate in order to be closer to each other. Lyneth told reporters, however, that she has no desire to be separated from her boy again. What’s more, the mom spoke out about Allan and the drastic actions that he had taken all those years ago.
“I just thought it was sad for him to have done what he did,” Lyneth told reporters. “You never take a child from its parent – no matter what.” The mother is seemingly also doing her best to acknowledge the life that Jermaine has experienced up to this point. “I have to respect the fact that he was a child; he didn’t know anything,” she explained.
“So, what was given to him, he had no choice but to live with that,” Lyneth continued. “And so, if the name that he has right now, he would like to respect that, then I’m gonna stand with him.” That said, however, Lyneth also admitted that calling her son by his new moniker may be a struggle. “To me, my son has always been Jermaine, so yes, that sticks for me,” she explained.
During the news conference, Lyneth also took the opportunity to thank those who had never stopped searching for her missing son – including the MCSC and authorities on both sides of the border. Moreover, the mom expressed hope that her story might inspire other parents to keep the faith in times of desperation.
“I am the proof that after 31 long years of suffering – 31 long years – one should never give up,” Lyneth explained. “But be patient, be strong, and believe that all things are possible and that anything can transpire.” Meanwhile, John Durham, Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney, spoke in support of all of the investigators who had worked hard to bring Jermaine home at last.
“After taking his son away from his son’s mother, this defendant is alleged to have lived a lie for the last 31 years in violation of numerous U.S. laws,” Durham said in an official statement in 2018. “We thank the many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada that have investigated this matter, worked hard to apprehend this fugitive and finally provided some answers to a mother who has suffered with her son’s absence for far too long.”
According to experts, too, Jermaine’s disappearance is one of the more unusual examples of a surprisingly familiar crime. “This is believed to be the longest case in North America – if possibly not the world – where an abducted child is reunited with a parent where they’re both in safe condition,” Banks explained in a 2018 interview with CBC Toronto.
Fortunately, though, Jermaine is not the only person to reunite with a parent after decades apart. Back in 2013, for example, police finally solved the case of Savanna Todd. You see, 19 years earlier, in 1994, the 11-month-old Todd had disappeared from her father’s home state of South Carolina – and investigators had been on her trail ever since.
It turned out that Savanna’s mother, Dorothy, had been diagnosed with mental health issues and had lost custody of the baby girl. But after accompanying her daughter to a party, Dorothy seemingly decided to skip town. And after escaping to South Africa and then New Zealand, Dorothy finally settled on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
Eventually, however, an acquaintance of Dorothy’s betrayed her, and the law caught up with the missing pair after almost two decades on the run. Yet although Savanna had been brought up believing a lie, she continued to stand by her mother – even after the truth was revealed. “[My mother] gave up everything that she loved – she knew – and she started anew just for me,” the girl told Today Tonight in 2014.
Elsewhere, in the Welsh city of Cardiff in 2018, a woman named Jackie Saleh was still searching for the daughter that she had not seen since the child was 18 months old. Jackie in fact believed that her partner had kidnapped their three girls – Rahannah, Nadia and Safia – from the United Kingdom and fled with them to Yemen back in 1986.
Then, in 2001, Rahannah was reportedly able to contact Jackie, who traveled to Yemen and brought home the two older girls, Rahannah and Nadia. Safia, however, had seemingly been lied to about her real parentage and did not return to the U.K. But while Jackie was eventually able to persuade her daughter of the truth, by that time it had become difficult to leave the troubled country.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign, however, Jackie finally reunited with Safia – an incredible 34 years after the girl had apparently first disappeared. “I am very happy to be with my mother and my sister,” the young woman told the BBC in January 2019. “I have a feeling I cannot express with words.”
Amazingly, in fact, cases like Jermaine’s, Savanna’s and Safia’s are far from rare. In 2017, for instance, there were 2,359 parental kidnapping cases reported to the FBI, according to Reuters. And yet incidents of such long-awaited reunions are very uncommon.
Despite Jermaine and Lyneth’s happy ending, though, there is certainly a long road ahead for the family. However, authorities remain jubilant about their role in bringing the pair back together. “This is one of those rare cases that tugs at your heart strings,” Christina Scaringi from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development said in a 2018 statement. “Not only did we, working collectively, get this alleged bad actor off the street, but we played a role in reuniting an unjustly separated family.”