Sally Faulkner has described the heart-wrenching moment her former partner told her that her two young children were never coming home from Lebanon.
In an emotional TV interview with the ABC’s Australian Story, the Brisbane mum says she was “naive” and “stupid” to let Ali Elamine take their children on what was supposed to be a two-week holiday to see his family.
During a Skype video call to Lahela, 5, and Noah, 3, to catch up on their holiday, Ms Faulkner received a chilling message from Mr Elamine.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Plans have changed’, and that’s when every part of me wanted to fall apart,” she said.
In an excerpt from the call, Mr Elamine says: “This is what’s going to happen. Lahela’s not coming back, Sally. She’s staying here with me. All right? Lahela and Noah.”
Ms Faulkner made international headlines in April when she was arrested in Beirut along with a 60 Minutes TV crew and three child recovery agents after a botched attempt at kidnapping her children.
It was nearly a year after she farewelled them in Brisbane.
Pure desperation drove her to try to get them back.
“Before it all went horribly wrong, I genuinely felt that I was doing the right thing,” Ms Faulkner said.
“Maybe people think I did the wrong thing by going over there and trying to recover my children but I was driven by desperation.”
In the program, to be screened on Monday night, Ms Faulkner tells how she agreed to the holiday and asked Mr Elamine to promise he would bring the children home.
He reassured her by saying they’d see her in two weeks, she was a “good mum”, and the kids would “be all right”.
She trusted him at the time but now she only has regrets.
“What if I had just said, ‘No, what am I doing? I’m naive, I’m stupid, I’m too trusting. He has done this before. Why, why, why am I being so nice?’ “
Ms Faulkner also accuses Mr Elamine and his parents of trying to take Lahela when she was 10 months old.
A row had erupted about how Ms Faulkner, who was living in Lebanon at the time, gave a glass of water to a painter working at Mr Elamine’s parent’s house.
As she prepared to leave in a car with Lahela, Ms Faulkner agreed to hand the infant over for a last cuddle with her grandmother, who then walked away with the baby inside the house.
“My eyes just widened, my heart started beating faster,” Ms Faulkner said, her voice breaking.
“I said, ‘What’s going on?, and he said, ‘Lahela is staying here’.”
Ms Faulkner, child recovery agent Adam Whittington and two of his colleagues have been charged with kidnapping by Lebanese authorities and could face jail.
The 60 Minutes crew has been charged with failing to report a crime and are expected to be fined.