A rival child recovery expert has blasted Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s decision to use Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI), an organisation he described as “cowboys” who carry out “violent and aggressive” operations.
Ms Faulkner sits in a Beirut jail alongside 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown and her crew after an alleged attempted kidnapping, carried out by CARI, went wrong. They will remain there at least until the weekend.
Ms Faulkner, 29, was in Lebanon for a desperate attempt to recover her daughter Lahela, 6, and son Noah, 4, from her ex-husband Ali al-Amin.
The couple once lived together in Lebanon, but – in fear for her children’s safety after a bomb blast nearby – Ms Faulkner relocated with her children to Brisbane.
She permitted Mr al-Amin to take the children to Lebanon on May 27 last year to visit his family, but the holiday became a permanent stay.
As details emerge about CARI’s methods, and that of their owner Adam Whittington, Ms Faulkner, Brown, 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice, sound man David Ballment and cameraman Ben Williamson face kidnapping-related charges.
Four CARI members were also detained.
After being briefly reunited with her kids, Ms Faulkner was also arrested after it emerged the 60 Minutes crew and recovery operatives had been captured.
Colin Chapman, who operates a rival firm Child Recovery Australia, said CARI’s methods have been called into question long before last week’s happenings in Lebanon.
“The first mistake was hiring CARI,” Mr Chapman told the ABC.
Mr Chapman’s firm had quoted for the job of recovering Ms Faulkner’s children from Beirut, but she decided to use CARI instead.
“CARI has been arrested in three countries, jailed in two countries, and along with CARI being jailed, in three instances the parents have been jailed as well,” Mr Chapman said.
“The mother or father accompanying them have ended up in jail.
“They’re known for violent and aggressive recoveries and that’s just not my opinion, that’s factual, been to jail, been arrested, been convicted, and here again.
“They’ve been a bit arrogant in their behaviour over in Lebanon. They have. And I don’t think anyone would disagree with me. What were they thinking?”
In 2014, Whittington – a former Met detective in the UK – was jailed in Singapore when a CARI plan to snatch a British woman’s child back from a spouse she was divorcing backfired.
Whittington and the child’s mother scuffled with the grandparents, with court papers stating Whittington placed his left arm around the 66-year-old grandfather’s neck, and also made contact with the neck of the grandmother.
He was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail for entering the country illegally, criminal assault and voluntarily causing hurt.
Mr Chapman said CARI’s actions in Lebanon had been reckless, and would like to know who paid for the operation, given Ms Faulkner was struggling financially.
“Sally was broke,” he said.
“She couldn’t afford to pay for this so who paid for it? Who authorised it? And who contracted them?”
Mr Chapman’s concerns seem warranted, given there was a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the operation, which had a target of $50,000 but only yielded $1937.
Although Mr Chapman was not employed by Ms Faulkner to recover her children, he seemed to have been acting in an advisory capacity to her after the operation was botched.
In a Fairfax media report, it is claimed Ms Faulkner sent a series of text messages to Mr Chapman after the arrests, asking for advice on how best to proceed.
In recent developments, Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team have again been questioned by a judge, who urged the Brisbane mum and her estranged husband to agree over the custody of their children to end the matter.