Father of missing boys Patrick and Fabricio Hovarth ‘has refused to disclose their whereabouts’
The father of two missing boys from north Belfast claimed they were with a “trusted friend”, a court heard on Thursday.
Police said Patrick Hovarth, 27, has refused to disclose the whereabouts of the brothers who may have been taken across the border.
His sons, five-year-old Patrick junior and eight-year-old Fabricio, have not been seen for nearly a week.
Hovarth, a Slovakian national with an address at Rutherglen Street in the city, is charged in connection with their disappearance.
He appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to face two counts of keeping a child away from the responsible person, namely Social Services.
The boys were last sighted getting into a black Ford car in the Limestone Road area at around 6pm on May 14.
A detective said police and social workers had gone to Hovarth’s home that day amid concerns for the welfare of the brothers and two other children.
Neither the accused nor his two sons were present at that stage.
Hovarth arrived later but would not comment on the boys’ whereabouts, the court heard.
Police believe there is a “strong possibility” they travelled with another relative to the Republic of Ireland.
At one point in the investigation Hovarth was stopped in a car in the Newry area but again provided no details about his sons, it was claimed.
He was also allegedly seen withdrawing 500 euros from a bank account in Belfast city centre.
According to the detective he has posted on social media and given assurances to a school teacher.
“The defendant advised him the two children were ok, and were with a trusted friend,” she said.
On Tuesday police asked Hovarth again about their whereabouts, the court was told, arresting him when he allegedly declined to provide information.
Opposing bail, the detective contended that he has been uncooperative and openly hostile at times.
“He will not prove the children are safe and well,” she maintained.
With Hovarth said to have previously returned to Slovakia for a period of time, Deputy District Judge Liam McStay heard police fear he may “facilitate the removal” of his sons if given the chance.
A defence barrister revealed that Hovarth has initiated legal proceedings as part of a fight for custody rights.
“He has advised police to the best of his knowledge where the children are,” counsel said.
“He says the whole incident was based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication.”
The barrister also insisted Hovarth made no attempt to leave the jurisdiction.
Refusing bail, however Mr McStay cited the allegations that he is getting in the way of authorities trying to locate the boys.
“There is a gravity and an urgency in respect to the welfare of these children,” he said.
Hovarth was remanded in custody to appear again in four weeks.