Britney Spears has lost the right to see her sons after she failed to appear at a crucial court hearing in LA amid a bizarre sequence of events.
The singer arrived nearly four hours late for the custody battle for Sean and Jayden with Kevin Federline - but even then didn’t enter the courtroom.
At the last minute, the 26-year-old star decided not to attend the hearing, and drove off to a church, saying: “I’m scared. I want to get back into the car.”
Wearing a white, wedding-style lace dress, Spears, who was accompanied by boyfriend Adnan Ghalib, climbed back into a black jeep.
She was then driven by a posse of bodyguards to a brown clapboard church, where she stayed for about five minutes before leaving again, trailed all the time by a convoy of paparazzi.
During her brief visit to the chapel, Spears left a personal note in a prayer box known as a “God can”.
The latest episode in the troubled singer’s very public unravelling may have put her hopes of a reunion with her children in jeopardy.
Spears lost all visitation rights earlier this month after she refused to hand over Sean, two, and one-year-old Jayden in a bizarre custody-stand-off at her Beverly Hills mansion.
But she remained behind locked doors at her house all morning yesterday as the hearing began without her several miles away to consider her children’s fate.
It wasn’t until the case was more than three hours into testimony that she was finally spotted lingering in the road outside her home smoking a cigarette before finally getting into a black jeep and making the 20-minute drive to the court.
Sporting a new mohawk hairstyle and a blue suit, Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline, 29, turned up early with his lawyers at Los Angeles Superior Court.
The singer’s lawyer was also said to be at the private hearing on time before Commissioner Scott Gordon.
But Spears was delayed reportedly because she was “waiting for delivery of a piece of furniture.”
When she finally arrived outside the downtown Los Angeles court, she was expected to give evidence in support of her appeal to win back visitation rights to see her sons.
Then the former Disney child star shocked onlookers by getting back behind the wheel of her jeep just moments after her 1.30 pm arrival.
After being dissuaded from driving herself, she moved into the passenger seat and was driven off by her all-male entourage.
A friend said Spears fled because “it was impossible to get her out of the car safely with all the photographers crowding her.”
The paparazzi followed her to the church a few minutes drive away and then back on the road towards her Beverly Hills house.
Federline’s lawyer, Mark Kaplan, said it was “the most significant hearing in the case so far.”
He said it was vital for Spears to attend to try and persuade the court to lift the ban of her seeing her children. “You can’t phone this one in,” he added.
Police and ambulance workers who were summoned to the singer’s home on January 3 after she refused to return the boys to her ex-husband were expected to testify.
During the incident, Spears locked herself in the bathroom with one of the boys and was later taken to hospital strapped on a stretcher amid fears that she could try and kill herself.
Federline’s lawyers won an emergency court order granting him sole custody.
But after checking out of the Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles after just one-and-a-half days, she shocked her family and friends by immediately leaving the U.S. for a sunshine break in Mexico with her British paparazzi boyfriend Adnan Ghalib.
The court debacle was just the latest example of Spears increasingly eccentric behaviour.
Spears has also missed previous court hearings, including a court-ordered deposition on December 12 when she called in sick. She also arrived nearly two hours late at a lawyer’s office on its rescheduled date, January 3.
Kaplan said that if visitation is eventually restored, it would be under more restrictions than those originally imposed.
But he added: “These are very, very draconian orders in place. Because of that the court wanted to have a hearing to give her and her attorneys the opportunity to refute some of the declarations.
“No judge likes making orders terminating a person’s involvement with their kids.”