Dad’s fight to see his family

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A DEVASTATED family man is battling strict foreign laws in a bid to bring his family home.

Russell Williams, of Thornton Gate, Thornton, almost lost his partner, Philippino-born Malou, and daughter Sandra, then two, in horrendous landlsides which hit the north of the country in October last year.

He campaigned to help re-home the hundreds of people who were left homeless after Typhoon Pepeng caused the landslide in La Trinidad in October 2009.

But Mr Williams is now facing a personal battle – his partner – who is separated from her husband, who has a drinking problem, has been refused a visa because she is not married to Mr Williams.

Divorce is banned in the Asian country – and annulments cost up to £200,000, with grounds only including insanity, fraud and intimidation.

Mr Williams, who left the Army at 21 after he broke his leg in a training session, said: “I haven’t seen my daughter since April after I had been helping victims of the disaster. I get tearful every time I think about it.

“I am working so hard at the moment to keep sending maintenance payments, I must have sent almost £10,000 towards her annulment and other costs.

“I missed Sandra’s birthday, and Christmas, which was awful.”

Mr Williams, who works at Balfour Beatty, had bought the pair a small home near Baguio, was visiting his family to finalise their visa applications so they could all move back to the Fylde coast, but extended his stay to help transform the tent cities into proper homes.

But after his six-month visa ran out last April, Russell was devastated to find his partner’s application had been rejected.

He said: “Malou and I are desperate to get married, but the Philippine Embassy rejected her application because we’re not married.

“They don’t allow divorce and annulments are incredibly difficult to get – I’m working so hard to send everything I can.

“I have submitted her annulment along with thousands of pounds and now we’ve just got to wait to see if the lawyers will accept it.

“All I want is to have my family with me, and to hold my daughter again.”

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Malou said: “Divorce is not allowed in the Philippines, only annulment.

“This is very expensive and can cost up to £200,000.”