Mother worries son will go back to jail

Last updated 05:00 15/10/2012
Sue Freeman worries for her son, who she describes as a 'very damaged young man'.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ

MOTHER'S LOVE: Sue Freeman worries for her son, who she describes as a 'very damaged young man'.

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A Christchurch mother, desperate to keep her adopted son out of jail, says he has been set up to fail in one of the most crucial weeks of his life.

Andrej Michael Schwaab, 19, will be released on Wednesday after serving more than two years in Christchurch Men's Prison for a 2010 car-stealing rampage that ended with his arrest at gunpoint in Nelson.

A week later, he will return to court to be sentenced for stealing and torching a car while on parole last year, which saw him recalled to prison.

Schwaab has admitted taking a car from Fendalton, driving around and then setting fire to it, and taking a laptop computer and alcohol worth $450 from a Rolleston house.

Judge Philip Moran, who has indicated home detention, was not available to sentence Schwaab earlier.

So it will be up to his mother, Sue Freeman, to keep him in line on her own during the week from Wednesday.

Ms Freeman said she already cannot sleep from the anxiety.

Schwaab suffers from attachment disorder from neglect during his first two years of life in a Russian orphanage, and struggles to cope with stress.

Without an ankle bracelet to "regulate" him during that week, she fears something could set him off - and land him back in prison.

"It's going to be a sensory overload [and] there is no organisation out there that will help," she said.

Ms Freeman said prison, next to violent offenders, was the wrong place for her son.

"He is a very damaged young man. He needs help," she said.

"In New Zealand, we think, ‘lock him up and there's the rehab'. At least on home detention he has the chance of making some healthy contacts."

Ms Freeman said in the orphanage, her son never got hugs or smiles from carers.

There were no nappies, so after each meal, the children were tied with cloth to a potty until they did their business.

Ms Freeman said her son still cannot read facial expressions and struggled to calm himself down from never learning to soothe himself as a baby.

Ms Freeman said Schwaab was also nervous about the week ahead.

She planned to keep him as busy as possible with a hike and videos.

While she still had to work and "can't stay awake all night", she had an all-night vigil planned the night before he went back to court.

"He says he'll be fine. He just doesn't get it. Something could trigger him."

Ms Freeman and her former husband adopted Schwaab into Germany. She moved to New Zealand with Schwaab and his sister in 2000, where he attended Akaroa School.

As a child, he was charming, witty and musically talented, but would not follow instructions.

When she moved to Christchurch, "the wheels fell off".

He was in and out of Te Puna Wai youth detention centre after committing an aggravated robbery when he was 14 and later for stealing cars.

Where other parents may have walked away, Ms Freeman could not.

While she did not condone his actions, she still loved him and believed therapy would help.

"I could never abandon him. I know he's got a huge amount of potential," she said.

"For me, it's been a journey. I've learnt a lot about my own resilience. What really upsets me is we don't care in New Zealand. There's no support."

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- The Press

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