The former president of the Rhodesia Front, Gerald Smith’s daughter fled New Zealand with her son to Zimbabwe following a custody battle.

Lauren Smith spent eight months in Zimbabwe and was at the centre of an international manhunt since February 9. She is believed to have remained in Zimbabwe and been unaware of the operation to bring her son, Nicholas back to New Zealand.

A warrant of arrest was issued in New Zealand in March after the 42-year-old failed to appear on an abduction charge. Police earlier confirmed she had breached a family court order in relation to her son.

But a court in Harare ordered the return of the child to New Zealand. The father flew to Zimbabwe to take his son back home. James Way told the New Zealand Herald he was "happy to have Nicholas home" and wanted people to now respect his privacy.

"It's a really hard time and we just want some private time and want to get back to normal."
The former Rhodesian Front leader said he hadn't spoken to his daughter due to an issue with phones but had some email contact.

Nicholas' return home was "a bit of a shock", he said, but he was looking forward to catching up with him on Friday when he would celebrate his 12th birthday.

As for what his daughter would do now, Smith said he was unsure. "We just don't know what her strategy is at the moment. We just don't know. Until such time as I hear from her and find out how it all happened, I really don't know. It came as a bit of a shock, that's all."

He earlier told the Herald his daughter was disillusioned with the New Zealand family court system and described her taking her son overseas as a "desperate move by a desperate person".

He described her as a "strong-willed" person who was likely given advice regarding her son and acted on the spur of the moment to take him overseas.