Entertainment TV The moment everything changed for Sally Faulkner

The moment everything changed for Sally Faulkner

Sally Faulkner
The harmless misunderstanding that cost Sally Faulkner her children. Photo: ABC
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The seemingly harmless act of handing a painter a glass of water may have cost Sally Faulkner her children.

In an emotional interview with the ABC’s Australian Story on Monday night, the Brisbane mother spoke of the moment while staying with her ex-husband Ali Elamine’s family in Lebanon when she felt her life began to change forever.

“The maid went to give him [the painter] water. I said, ‘I’ll take it to him’ because I was going downstairs. I handed him the water, he looked down at me and smiled, and that was it,” Ms Faulkner said.

But what Ms Faulkner didn’t know was this cultural misunderstanding was considered a big mistake by Mr Elamine’s family.

“I was blamed for being inappropriate, provocative, flirting. And that was it was all my fault,” she said.

From there, things only got worse for the young mum.

“We went to hop in the car. I had [daughter] Lahela’s things all packed up, and [husband Ali Elamine] said to me: ‘Give Lahela to my mum, she wants a cuddle’.

“And I handed her over, she took her and walked into the house.

 “And my eyes just widened, my heart started beating faster and I said, ‘What are you, what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Lahela’s is staying here’.

Ms Faulkner said she cried for two hours in the car back to their Beirut apartment.

Watch Sally Faulkner’s heart–wrenching moment below:

Upon arrival at their apartment, Mr Elamine disconnected the internet, took Ms Faulkner’s sim card out of her phone, and left her with $100 before disappearing.

She didn’t see him until two weeks later, when he handed her her passport and said: “You’re going, Lahela’s staying here.”

Ms Faulkner flew home to Brisbane without her baby.

She made international headlines in April when she and a 60 Minutes TV crew were arrested in the Lebanese capital.

Accompanied by journalist Tara Brown, a producer, a cameraman, a sound recordist, child recovery expert Adam Whittington and three other agents, the group were detained after a botched attempt at kidnapping her children.

‘I thought I’d just lost everything’

sally faulkner
Sally Faulkner was told over Skype her kids were never coming home. Photo: ABC

The attempt to regain her children – five-year-old Lahela and three-year-old Noah – came after Mr Elamine failed to return them from a supposedly short trip to Lebanon.

Ms Faulkner agreed to the trip despite saying she had a “doubting suspicion … he might do something and keep the children”.

Her situation finally hit home when she received a Skype call from her husband telling her the children were never coming home.

Sally Faulkner and Ali Elamine
Sally Faulkner and Ali Elamine. Photo: ABC

“Hearing those words, said to me on Skype, destroyed me in that moment, I lost it,” she said.

“I heard Lahela, this little voice in the background, I heard her saying, ‘Is that Mummy?’ And then I hung up. I hung up because I cried. I’ve never cried so hard in my life.

“And in that moment, I thought I’d just lost everything.”

Ms Faulkner and Mr Elamine signed a parental agreement that the children would be raised in Australia, and would visit Lebanon once a year to see his grandparents.

CCTV footage of the kidnapping attempt below:

Ms Faulkner, Ms Brown and the Nine Network team spent two weeks in prison following the failed recovery attempt, before striking a deal to secure their release.

Tara Brown and Sally Faulkner after their release:

Mr Elamine allegedly received $500,000 for agreeing to drop the charges against the 60 Minutes crew and Ms Faulkner.

Mr Whittington spent 104 days in jail, two of his team members have also been released on bail, while another is still in a Lebanese prison.

Ms Faulkner, Mr Whittington and two of his colleagues have been charged with kidnapping by Lebanese authorities and could still face jail time.

The 60 Minutes crew has been charged with failing to report a crime and are expected to be fined.

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