Crew must give up senior staff - expert

By Emma Reynolds

Tara Brown on location with sound recordist David 'Tangles' Ballment. Photo / Supplied
Tara Brown on location with sound recordist David 'Tangles' Ballment. Photo / Supplied

A child recovery specialist linked to the botched 60 Minutes abduction says Channel 9 must give up a senior staff member as a sacrificial lamb.

Col Chapman, who spoke with Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner several times before the failed operation, says the network should identify the person responsible to the Lebanese authorities.

"What Nine has to do is hand over or hand up the person who signed off on this," he told The Kyle and Jackie O Show on KIIS this morning. "That's what Lebanon wants, they want to know who's responsible and they know it's not the Nine crew, they know that.

"I think it's more someone in the management production side, I think it's someone well over the executive producer who said, 'Let's go ahead and do this.'"

The accused will apply for bail at a Beirut court today around 5pm AEST. Reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, sound recordist David 'Tangles' Ballment and cameraman Ben Williamson are being held at Baabda detention centre alongside Ms Faulkner, two Lebanese security workers and child recovery agent Adam Whittington and his assistant.

Child recovery specialist Col Chapman says the operation was a 'disaster'. Photo / Supplied
Child recovery specialist Col Chapman says the operation was a 'disaster'. Photo / Supplied

But while Ms Faulkner is expected to be bailed, Channel Nine has admitted the crew are unlikely to see such a positive result, with Judge Rami Abdullah saying last week there was "no way the charges will be dropped".

If found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in jail.

"Nine is handling this very badly," said Mr Chapman. "They're playing catch-up. They've got no understanding of the Middle East and they're trying to use Western methods of negotiation and that's not working."

His criticism of the network comes as the pressure grows in Beirut, with Mr Whittington claiming he has receipts showing two direct payments from Nine totalling $115,000 for the attempted kidnapping.

Channel Nine's director of news Darren Wick responded by saying he was "expecting there to be some attacks on network" and believed Mr Whittington was "trying to cut some deals on the side," reporter Tom Steinfort told The Today Show.

The Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) founder also accused Ms Faulkner of "throwing everybody under the bus" by doing deals with her estranged husband Ali al-Amin, although her lawyer said her ex-husband was refusing to engage and is now negotiating with Channel Nine.

Mr Al-Amin could hold the key to the crew's freedom if he chooses not to press charges.

Mr Chapman said today that he had repeatedly warned Ms Faulkner not to use Mr Whittington's agency.

What's more, he claimed the company had faked its stories of success, with news emerging on the weekend that photos of happy "rescued" children on the agency's website were actually stock images.

Asked whether he would have carried out such an operation, he said: "It's Lebanon. It's one of the worst countries in the world to work in ... Look, we may have considered it, but there are other ways to go about it than what they did. That was just Rambo.

"It's a complete disaster. The worst thing is for the families and Sally, the Nine families and Sally herself."

Colleagues have praised the 60 Minutes crew's reporting skills while their families asked that people wait to judge them until all the facts are known, saying the priority should be getting them home.

While Brown and her colleagues have said they are safe and being treated well, Mr Chapman warned they might struggle if they are transferred from holding cells to the main prison today: "That's the rough stuff."

But he did sound a note of hope for the TV crew. "Sally's going to get a slap on the wrist and a big fine. CARI, they're there for an extended period of time, the Lebanese are very unhappy about them.

"The Nine crew, it's in no one's advantage to jail the Nine crew, this is just about a big fine and sending a message to the rest of world that you can't do this."

It may be some comfort to their families as they wait to hear what will happen.

- news.com.au

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