Sally Faulkner's daughter, after bungled child recovery attempt: 'This is so you don't forget me'

Sally Faulkner's estranged daughter Lahela gave her mother a Barbie ring and a heartbreaking farewell message: "this is so you don't forget me."

The 6-year-old shared the memento with her Brisbane mum, who was forced to relinquish custody of her two children to their Lebanese-based father in the wake of the 60 Minutes' bungled attempt to retrieve them.
Speaking for the first time since her return to Australia last Friday, Ms Faulkner said she felt "numb because it feels so surreal", with the grief at losing her children coming "in waves where I just burst out crying".

She said she spent the flight home from Beirut, "bawling my eyes out and then I'm kind of, alright one minute and then all of a sudden it floods back".

Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, left, and Sally Faulkner, right, the mother of the two Australian children, sit in a minivan after they released from a Lebanese jail. Photo / Supplied
Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, left, and Sally Faulkner, right, the mother of the two Australian children, sit in a minivan after they released from a Lebanese jail. Photo / Supplied

Revealing the painful details of her final, court-ordered reunion with her children, an emotional Ms Faulkner said: "I had to say goodbye to my babies. Lahela, she looked at me and said, 'Mummy will you take my ring,' she gave me her little Barbie ring, she said 'this is so you don't forget me'."

60 Minutes addressed the controversy on its Sunday programme, admitting it had "made mistakes" in the failed kidnap mission "which ended very badly for everyone involved".

Still under contract to Nine to tell her complicated custody story, Faulkner's reunion with her Australian family, including newborn son Eli with partner Brendan was filmed and aired exclusively on the network which paid agents from Child Abduction Recovery International to snatch her eldest children off a Beirut street more than two weeks ago.

Comforted by her mother Karen and brother Simon, Faulkner's family supported her "brave" bid to bring her children home, telling the devastated mum they are proud of her efforts.

Reporter Tara Brown who shared a cell with Faulkner during their detention said: "I think despite how terribly it's gone, she knows in her heart she's tried everything to get them back. This is in her opinion, that she had no choice but to do this and ultimately she's been able to tell them that she tried everything."

Faulkner's "lost everything ... she's lost her babies" Brown said, "and I'm completely in awe of how she's coped with that."

Michael Usher, who spoke for the programme said: "Our role in reporting Sally's desperate efforts to be reunited with all her children are now subject to a lot of soul searching here at Channel 9."

Asked when she realised the botched operation was really serious, Brown remained steadfast in her team's right to pursue the story.

"I think when we presented ourselves [to court] and we were being questioned, I really thought 'we're journalists, we're doing our job, they will see reason, they will understand that, that we are here to do a story on a very desperate mother'. And I just thought that reason would prevail and it didn't, it just didn't."

A "compensation" deal paid by Nine to Faulkner's estranged husband, Ali Elamine, his 70-year-old mother and the children's nanny caught up in the street snatch - reportedly worth a total of $1 million - secured the release of the TV crew and Faulkner; while the CARI agents, including former Australian soldier Adam Whittington remain imprisoned on kidnapping, crime conspiracy and assault charges.

Usher said: "There are no winners in this story, especially Sally Faulkner, who had to return to Australia after one last goodbye to Lahela and [three-year-old son] Noah in Lebanon."


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