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British grandmother, 74, fighting deportation from Australia who insists she ‘hasn’t left the country since 1981’ flew to the UK FIVE YEARS later, her own daughter claims


The British grandmother fighting deportation from Australia on the grounds that she hasn’t set foot out of the country since 1981 actually flew to the UK five years later, her own daughter claims.

The bombshell revelation following a MailOnline investigation confirms the Australian government’s claim that Mary Ellis, 74, is not entitled to ‘absorbed citizenship’ because she re-entered Australia after 1984.

Ms Ellis claimed she ‘doesn’t know a soul’ in her native UK – and insisted that she had never left Australia since her arrival.

Her lawyer has urged immigration officials to recognise his client as an ‘absorbed person’, which under Australian law would allow her to obtain citizenship despite having apparently been ‘illegal’ for so many years.

The crucial qualification for ‘absorbed’ citizenship is that she would only be eligible if she was in Australia from April 2, 1984, and had not left the country since.

British grandmother Mary Ellis, 74, pictured with her husband Martin, is battling deportation from Australia. Mrs Ellis claims to have 'absorbed citizenship' and says she last set foot in the UK in 1981

British grandmother Mary Ellis, 74, pictured with her husband Martin, is battling deportation from Australia. Mrs Ellis claims to have ‘absorbed citizenship’ and says she last set foot in the UK in 1981

Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981. She has since created a life for herself in Tweed Heads, on the NSW-Queensland border, but fears she'll be sent back to the UK

 Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981. She has since created a life for herself in Tweed Heads, on the NSW-Queensland border, but fears she’ll be sent back to the UK

Mrs Ellis's claims have been challenged by her daughter Angela Potter, 54, who states her mother did visit the UK in 1986. It supports the Australian government's position that Mrs Ellis is not entitled to ¿absorbed citizenship¿ because she re-entered Australia after 1984

Mrs Ellis’s claims have been challenged by her daughter Angela Potter, 54, who states her mother did visit the UK in 1986. It supports the Australian government’s position that Mrs Ellis is not entitled to ‘absorbed citizenship’ because she re-entered Australia after 1984

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline from her home in Daventry, Northants, Angela, 54, said: 'The last time I saw my mum was when I was 17 years old so this would have been 1986'

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline from her home in Daventry, Northants, Angela, 54, said: ‘The last time I saw my mum was when I was 17 years old so this would have been 1986’

Ms Ellis has carved out a life in Australia and claims she has never left since 1981. But Home Affairs assert that she had secret aliases and that her partner had another name

Ms Ellis has carved out a life in Australia and claims she has never left since 1981. But Home Affairs assert that she had secret aliases and that her partner had another name

But her estranged daughter Angela Potter has effectively torpedoed her mother’s case, because she says Ms Ellis came back to Britain in 1986.

Her daughter also confirmed that far from knowing no one in the UK, Ms Ellis is one of 11 siblings, the majority of whom all live in England.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline from her home in Daventry, Northants, Angela, 54, said: ‘The last time I saw my mum was when I was 17 years old so this would have been 1986.

‘Mum had come back to Croydon to sell the house and gather a few last bits to move to Australia.

‘We met at my Nan’s house. It was really to say our goodbyes.

‘Mum and I are estranged, I haven’t seen her since that day. We don’t really get on.

‘As far as I know that’s the last time she came back to Britain. She didn’t come to my wedding, my brother’s wedding or even nan’s funeral.’

MailOnline has identified ten of Ms Ellis’s siblings using genealogical research.

Despite claiming to have lost contact with everyone in England, Ms Ellis’ Facebook profile shows she is friends with no fewer than eight of her siblings or in-laws based in the UK or Ireland on the social media site.

Her case has attracted much support because the mother-of-two, who first arrived in Australia in 1981, became a model citizen, receiving a Volunteer of the Year award in New South Wales for providing meals for the homeless, and even won a competition to appear on an Australian stamp.

Recalling the circumstances in which her mother left the UK with her two children and partner Trevor Warren who later changed his name to Martin Ellis, Angela said: ‘I haven’t seen my mum since I was 17. She and Trevor, her partner at the time, had always wanted to go to Australia. Trevor had at least one sister living there, perhaps two.

‘They used to run a sweet shop in Catford in London and lived in Croydon.

‘Mum and Trevor went over to Australia first as a test-run. Then we all went out as a family.

Mrs Ellis's first husband Sean McHugo, pictured on his wedding day to his second wife June in 1988

Mrs Ellis’s first husband Sean McHugo, pictured on his wedding day to his second wife June in 1988

Mr McHugo, a former soldier, married Ms Ellis in Lambeth, south London in 1967 and fathered her first two children Angela and David. He died in 2008

Mr McHugo, a former soldier, married Ms Ellis in Lambeth, south London in 1967 and fathered her first two children Angela and David. He died in 2008

Mary Ellis has worked in Australia, paid taxes, has a licence, a Medicare card and even voted - but now bureaucrats have warned her to 'depart Australia as soon as possible' or 'face serious consequences'

Mary Ellis has worked in Australia, paid taxes, has a licence, a Medicare card and even voted – but now bureaucrats have warned her to ‘depart Australia as soon as possible’ or ‘face serious consequences’

Mr Shneider provided a job reference written for Mary in 1987, which he claims prove she was in Australia between 1983 and 1986, not out of the country as Home Affairs claimed

Mr Shneider provided a job reference written for Mary in 1987, which he claims prove she was in Australia between 1983 and 1986, not out of the country as Home Affairs claimed

‘But my brother and I hated it out there. Absolutely hated it. I was only there for about eight months.

‘I was about 15 years old at the time and I came home to the UK and lived with an aunt. My brother came back and joined the British Army.

‘The first I knew of the fact she may be being kicked out of Australia was when my brother – who now lives in Australia despite hating it first time – sent me a Whatsapp with a link to the story.

‘We haven’t spoken but my brother keeps in touch still. ‘

In every respect, Mary Ellis did indeed seem to be an Australian, with a driver’s licence, ID card, Medicare and Pension card – ‘everything Australians have,’ as she puts it.

Born Mary Philomena Walker in Croydon, Surrey in 1949, she was the eldest of her 11 siblings, our researchers have established.

She was only 19 when she married soldier Sean McHugo in Lambeth, south London in 1968, and the following year their daughter Angela was born in the same area.

It is believed that Angela’s brother David McHugo was born in 1971, though no record of his birth could be found in England and Wales.

According to her own account to MailOnline, the marriage broke down and Ms Ellis began a relationship with Martin Ellis – a name which the Australian government now say was actually an alias. His real name was Trevor Warren, say the Australians, which daughter Angela appeared to confirm.

Mary is friends on Facebook with her brother, Roman Catholic Deacon Mike Walker, 67, from Caversham, Reading.

Mary 'loves Australia' and has a soon and granddaughters here and says if she went back to England she would know no-one

Mary ‘loves Australia’ and has a soon and granddaughters here and says if she went back to England she would know no-one

Part of the Home Affairs letter that claims Mary lied about never leaving Australia and telling her to 'depart Australia as soon as possible' or 'face serious consequences'

Part of the Home Affairs letter that claims Mary lied about never leaving Australia and telling her to ‘depart Australia as soon as possible’ or ‘face serious consequences’

During those dates, her daughter Angela would have been aged between 14 and 17. Angela was born in London and in September 1994, at the age of 25, got married in Croydon. She remains in the UK.

Her brother David meanwhile married in Canterbury, Kent, in July 1995. He spent the first part of his career in the UK and only emigrated to Australia in later years.

David, 53, is now a company director and provides project management to the rail sector around Sydney. Mary’s ex-husband Sean McHugo remarried in 1988, but he died 20 years later in Medway, Kent.

Ms Ellis told MailOnline that on arrival in Australia in 1981, her partner told her he acquired permanent residency visas for them both – which she discovered to her shock was not true decades later.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network, she said: ‘I have a Driver’s Licence, ID card, Medicare Card, Pension card. Everything Australians have.

‘I thought well, I’m a permanent resident. You know, I carry on doing my daily – what I do every day. Nobody said anything.’

The discovery came when the pensioner was asked to visit the Brisbane office of the Home Affairs department, where she was told she had been living in Australia illegally.

The grandmother worked in hospitality and then for the New South Wales government for 30 years.

Ms Ellis is being represented pro bono by Gold Coast migration agent Stanley Shneider who initially described the Home Affairs’ claims that she had left the country under an alias three times since her arrival in 1981 as ‘nonsense’.

However, when asked about Angela’s claims that Ms Ellis returned to the UK in 1986, Mr Shneider said: ‘I have accepted Mary’s instructions in good faith and until it is established otherwise I will maintain those instructions’.

He had provided documents to the Daily Mail which he said proves Ms Ellis was in the country between 1983 and 1986, including a job reference saying she worked for a restaurant and catering company in Tasmania.

The document said she worked as waitress for Images International Cuisine with duties including preparing salads and handling cash and credit card transactions.

It made no reference to her travelling overseas during that time and said: ‘I am pleased to report that she is punctual, industrious and of a sober nature and (I) recommend her as an employee in a similar situation’.

Mary also produced a successful Medicare enrolment letter signed by the then-Minister of Health to argue her case.

After her time in Tasmania, she moved to New South Wales, and created a life in Tweed Heads, a beachside town south off the Gold Coast and popular with retirees.

Mary was awarded the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, who provide hot meals to those in need

Mary was awarded the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, who provide hot meals to those in need

Australia's Home Affairs department claims Mary did leave Australia under different aliases in February of 1983 and did not return until November of 1986

Australia’s Home Affairs department claims Mary did leave Australia under different aliases in February of 1983 and did not return until November of 1986

Mary is a popular figure in her community due to the time she spends volunteering and raising money for The Salvation Army – a charity that supports the needy.

She has worked with Aboriginal people in home care and takes a deep interest in Australian politics, culture and current affairs.

‘This is my home; I want an Australian passport. Even then I wouldn’t go back and visit the UK, I love it here.

‘I’m a good person, I’ve paid my taxes. I believe the minister is a good person but… yes, I am anxious.’

Daily Mail Australia has asked the country’s Federal Immigration Minister whether Ms Ellis could be granted the absorbed person visa on compassionate grounds, given her age and her background as a model citizen.

Ms Ellis’ case is the latest controversy for the department, after it was caught unprepared for a High Court decision to release more than 140 asylum seekers from detention, even though many had done jail time for crimes as serious as murder and child sex offences.

Mr Schneider said a reconsideration by the department would be welcome because a legal challenge could cost as much as $100,000.

‘She’s a pensioner,’ Mr Schneider said. ‘She lives modestly in a rented home. She works in volunteer positions.

‘She’s always paid her taxes, she hasn’t even had a speeding ticket, she’s never infringed anything, she’s never offended anyone.’

Mr Schneider said Ms Ellis was so much a part of Australia that her face even figured on a stamp, having won a competition to be honoured in that manner.

A spokesman for the Federal immigration office said that they understood that ‘the idea of deportation is terrifying’ that authorities ‘didn’t just rock up and handcuff you, it’s less black and white’.

However, Mr Schneider said ‘that’s all very well, but given what Home Affairs have said she has a right to feel fearful.’



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