Aussie mum Sally Faulkner, who was arrested in Beirut after attempting to kidnap her children from their father has opened up about the ordeal and the feeling of being separated form her children.
Recalling the moment where it all “fell apart”, Faulkner says she received a skype call from her ex Ali Elamine who had their children with him in Lebanon for a two-week holiday.
“Plans have changed, Sal. The kids aren’t coming home. This is what’s going to happen. Lahela’s not coming back, Sally. She’s staying here with me. All right? Lahela and Noah,’” Elamine tells Faulkner in phone recordings played on ABC’s Australian Story in a two-part series, which premiered last night.
“That’s when every part of me just wanted to fall apart,” she says.
“Hearing those words said to me on Skype destroyed me in that moment. I lost it,” she continued. “I heard Lahela’s little voice in the background. I heard her saying ‘is that mummy’. And I hung up. I hung up because I cried I’ve never cried so hard in my life.”
“In that moment I just thought I’ve lost everything. I knew that I was in for a long, long nightmare.”
Faulkner started to gather information and evidence for her case, and had contact with her children as often as Elamine would allow.
“I miss you but Daddy said ‘No, I’ll never say yes,’” says her daughter Lehala in a Skype recording.
To which Faulkner asks, “Never say yes to what honey?”
“To come to Australia,” Lehela answers.
“You should be allowed to come home sweetie, but daddy, daddy wont let mummy take you,” says Faulkner.
“I want to go to Australia. But why wont you let me,” continues Lehela.
To which he mother says, “Mummy doesn’t understand why either sweetie”.
According to Faulkner’s mother, Karen Buckley, the Skype calls continued for two weeks, however when Lahela was begging to come home he stopped communication.
“He [Elamine] said to me ‘Sal If you’re going to upset the children, you’re not going to talk to them again,” says Faulkner.
“And that was the end of the contact with the children.”
Faulkner then desperately started working towards a plan to get her kids back which included setting up a facebook page and a petition, which caught the attention of the media.
She went through family court here in Australia to gain custody of the children and hired a Lebanese lawyer to serve Ali with documents in Beirut.
After eight months, she eventually won custody of the kids, and they also served a recovery order for the children to return to Australia.
“But at the end of the day I’m staring at a piece of paper that means everything in Australia, but nothing anywhere else,” says Faulkner.
“My children aren’t in Australia. They’re in Lebanon. The court orders I had were useless.”
Faulkner then began searching for other options, which included child recovery agents, but she was unable to afford the $80,000-$150,000 fees.
Then she received a call from 60 minutes offering to pay for the recovery in return for the story.
Australian Story: When Plans Change continues tonight on ABC at 8pm.