Custody dispute ends in forcible removal of children

By Kym Agius

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

The mother of four girls sent back to Italy in a bitter custody dispute is not likely to follow them for fear of being prosecuted and victimised in their father's country.

The sisters, aged nine to 15, were forcibly removed from their Sunshine Coast home on Wednesday night by Australian Federal Police after a Brisbane judge dismissed the mother's last-ditch application to keep them in Australia.

Channel Seven footage shows the girls screaming and resisting before they are put in two cars. Their mother banged on the rear window of one car as it drove off. She ran after the car and fell to the ground sobbing.

The sisters were driven to Brisbane Airport and taken to a boarding gate by the officers as one girl wailed, "Let me go. I want my mum, I want my mum." Their mother watched on, calling to them: "I love you."

The girls left on a flight in the early hours of yesterday.

Brisbane Family Court Justice Colin Forrest ruled that the girls had been wrongfully kept in Australia and there were insufficient exceptional circumstances to allow them to stay. He refused to make the order to return the children to Italy until their father gave an undertaking to withdraw any criminal complaint against their mother.

The girls' great aunt, who acted as the litigation guardian during the case, said the mother had told her she wouldn't return to Italy to be with the girls. The family feared the mother would be prosecuted and persecuted, despite the father's assurance to the Family Court.

She said the girls' father had turned his village against the mother.

The sisters attracted international media attention in May when they went into hiding to avoid a 2011 Family Court order to return to Italy, where they are the subject of a custody dispute. The sisters, who hold dual Italian and Australian citizenship, travelled to Australia with their mother in 2010 for a one-month holiday and remained here since. A further custody case will now be dealt with in Italy.

- AAP

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