Out of jail and off to the altar

Emlyn Culverwell (left) and fiancee Iryna Nohai show the ultrasound of their unborn baby shortly after being released from prison in the United Arab Emirates. With them is Emlyn’s best friend, Marcel Botha, right
Emlyn Culverwell (left) and fiancee Iryna Nohai show the ultrasound of their unborn baby shortly after being released from prison in the United Arab Emirates. With them is Emlyn’s best friend, Marcel Botha, right

Case dropped against baby drama couple – as long as they tie the knot

After five weeks behind bars in an Abu Dhabi prison, for having premarital sex, charges against a Port Alfred man and his pregnant fiancee were dropped yesterday and the couple are now trying to settle back into their old lives while planning a wedding and preparing for parenthood.

Emlyn Culverwell, 29, and his Ukrainian fiancee Iryna Nohai, 27, were released on bail on Wednesday and the case against them withdrawn yesterday, on condition they get married soon.

Emlyn’s relieved mother, and soon to be first-time grandmother, Linda, 51, was overjoyed by the good news and has already started planning a trip to visit her grandchild.

“I cannot wait to be a grandmother. This great news was marred by the last five weeks of stress and fear. But now we can move on. I cannot wait to visit my first grandchild,” Linda said.

Emlyn and Iryna were arrested on January 29 after Iryna was taken to the Medeor Medical Centre with stomach cramps.

The couple, who have spent the last five years living and working at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi, were told Iryna was pregnant, and that authorities had been notified. Moments later they were arrested.

The charges against Emlyn and Iryna were related to the country’s morality laws, as premarital sex is a criminal offence in the UAE.

A person found guilty can face between three months’ and five years’ imprisonment, followed by immediate deportation.

The story received attention from local and international media‚ with people all over the world rallying behind the couple. Ultimately‚ Yas Waterworld’s holding company‚ Miral and Farah Enterprises‚ paid for a lawyer and posted the couple’s bail.

On home soil a motion was presented to parliament this past week by DA MP Terri Stander‚ condemning the couple’s incarceration.

Emlyn and Iryna, now 11-weeks’ pregnant, declined to comment, saying they wanted to focus on their baby’s health.

While in custody the couple had very limited contact and Linda said her son’s main priority now was the safety and wellbeing of his wife-to-be.

“Emlyn was excited and relieved to see Iryna. He said: ‘Mom‚ I can’t explain to you how I feel. I can’t even call it floating.’ He said he is happy that she is out and, if he had to stay‚ he would. The safety of Iryna and the baby were all that mattered,” Linda said.

The grandmother-to-be said the last five weeks had been a nightmare, and they were relieved to put the ordeal behind them.

“I landed in hospital and received treatment for depression. We were in constant contact with the authorities, who kept telling us to be patient,” Linda said. “But how can they tell us to be patient when there are three lives involved? Would they have been patient if it was their family?”

On receiving the call about their release earlier this week, Linda could hardly contain her excitement.

“I screamed his name. I was taking a blood pressure test when I took the call. I thought he was phoning from prison,” she said.

“He told me to calm down and that they were out on bail. Then today [Friday] they phoned to say all charges were dropped. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream or cry.”

“Karl [her ex-husband] and I are extremely grateful to all within their company who helped in their release‚ and in offering the couple their jobs back. We are extremely grateful for all the support we have received‚” she said.

“The publicity has helped so much. If the holding company‚ as well as Yas Waterworld‚ did not do all they could‚ I shudder to think what would have happened.”

Emlyn’s father Karl said he could finally breathe. “I hope we can help others through our story. It is quite exceptional for their charges to be dropped.

“It is unbelievable the difference a good employer can make. The media did an unbelievable job and played a big role.”

Linda said this would make an interesting story to tell their grandchild one day.

“One day we will be able to tell our grandchild what happened to mom and dad. I am so grateful for how the story spiralled and how it worked out in the end. Now we can be grandparents.”

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