One morning almost two years ago, Eleanor Mapp left her apartment in Rogers Park about the time she typically would have headed to work.
Then the fast-food worker vanished, leaving behind her 6-year-old daughter. And Chicago Police issued a missing person report for the 4-foot-6, 115-pound woman.
But Mapp wasn’t missing. That September morning, instead of going to work, Mapp — carrying a suitcase with a few clothes inside — boarded an airplane and traveled 11,000 miles to Australia. She told no one where she was going.
Now, Mapp, 30, has been making news in Perth on Australia’s western shores. She’s pregnant and facing possible deportation because her tourist visa has long since expired. She’s told anyone who will listen that the flight might kill her and her unborn baby — because she miscarried twins in 2015 and another child died after a premature birth last year. And Mapp has the backing of her doctor in Australia, according to Australian television journalist Geof Parry, who has covered her story for 7 News in Perth.
As of this week, it appears Mapp has at least a temporary reprieve until she gives birth — because immigration officials have decided she’s too far along in her pregnancy to travel.
But Mapp has no desire to return to Chicago, where she grew up. In a telephone interview last month, she told the Chicago Sun-Times she fled the city two years ago, in part, to escape a horrific relationship.
“He threatened to kill me and he tried to come after me and my daughter,” Mapp explained.
So she traveled to Australia, to meet a man she’d found online in 2009. He even paid for her plane ticket, she said. Before that, she’d never ventured any farther from home than Canada.
“It’s very beautiful, friendly,” she said of Perth. “You can walk out of the house without being shot or raped or killed.”
But Mapp may be fighting a losing battle to remain there permanently.
She initially applied for a “partner” visa [she has a boyfriend living in Perth] but was denied. Then she applied for a so-called “medical visa,” to get state medical care, she said. That was also denied.
“They said I could get the same medical care in America,” she said. She sought a protection visa last year, telling Australian immigration authorities abut the gang affiliation of her former boyfriend in Chicago. They told her that her information was too vague.
A representative with Australia’s Immigration Department told PerthNow that it has been working with Mapp for more than a year to resolve her visa status and that she had no current visa application.
“Individuals who have no further matters before the department and have been deemed medically fit to travel are expected to depart,” a spokeswoman told PerthNow last month.
Mapp said she’s been threatened with detention and deportation. But earlier this summer, immigration officials relented and let her re-apply for a partner visa — although she says doesn’t know if she’ll be successful.
Mapp said she left Chicago secretly back in 2015 because she feared her ex-boyfriend might come after her.
She still remembers the “goose bumps and the butterflies” she felt the morning she headed for O’Hare Airport. Police later called off the search, after learning Mapp had left voluntarily, a police spokesman said in July.
When she flew to Australia, Mapp left her daughter with her mother. Though her mother and daughter are still in Chicago, Mapp told Parry, the Australian journalist, that if she is forced to return to the U.S., she would have “nowhere to go. I would be out on the street … no money, no health care, nowhere to stay.”
In late 2015, Mapp’s mother, who lives in Rogers Park, sought to become her granddaughter’s legal guardian, according to documents from the Circuit Court of Cook County. At the time, Stella Stevens said the child’s father was “unknown” and that her mother could not be found. A judge appointed Stevens, then 52, the child’s guardian a month later.
Reached at her home in August, Stevens declined to talk about the matter for this story.
Mapp said she talks to her daughter on the phone when she can.
Does she ask when her mother is coming home?
“Yeah,” Mapp said, stopping. “It’s difficult to talk about.”