They're the words that would lead to a botched kidnap attempt, the lost custody of two children, and see Sally Faulkner, a 60 Minutes crew led by Tara Brown, and child recovery agents thrown in a Lebanese jail.

"Plans have changed, Sal. The kids aren't coming home."

The words, spoken to Faulkner by her estranged husband Ali Elamine during a Skype call between Brisbane and Beirut, chilled Faulkner to the bone.

She knew he'd done it again.

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"That's when every part of me just wanted to fall apart," Faulkner told Australian Story in an exclusive interview to air on the ABC tonight, detailing her relationship and the events leading up to the failed recovery of her children on a Beirut street.

Footage release by Channel Nine after journalist Tara Brown and her crew were detained in Lebanon while filming a story about the recovery. Photo / AP
Footage release by Channel Nine after journalist Tara Brown and her crew were detained in Lebanon while filming a story about the recovery. Photo / AP

Of the events in April which ended in a Lebanese prison and saw her give up custody of her children in exchange for freedom, Faulkner said she "genuinely felt" she was doing the right thing "before it all sort of went horribly wrong".

"Maybe people believe I did the wrong thing by going over there and trying to recover my children, but I was driven by love and desperation," she said.

Reliving the moment last year when Elamine told her Lahela, 6, and Noah, 3, were not coming home from what was meant to be a two-week-holiday with their father, Faulkner fought tears.

Sally and daughter Lahela. Photo / Facebook
Sally and daughter Lahela. Photo / Facebook

"When he answered the Skype call, I could just see his face and I said to him, 'What's wrong?' and he looked at me and he said, 'Plans have changed'," Faulkner said.

"I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'Plans have changed, Sal. The kids aren't coming home. This is what's going to happen. Lahela's not coming back, Sally. She's staying here with me. All right? Lahela and Noah.'"

Faulkner also revealed Elamine first separated her from her daughter just 10 months after she was born, and that when she first fell pregnant, she and Elamine separated and he begged her not to have the baby.

The pair had met in Dubai after Faulkner and her friend, Sacha Jordan, accepted jobs with Emirates airlines.

"We got the job together working as cabin crew," Jordan said. "They ended up placing us together to live in Dubai. We worked hard, and we partied harder. I had invited Sally to house party in Dubai and that's when she had met Ali."

Ali Elamine leaves court on April 18, 2016 in Beirut, Lebanon after Sally Faulkner and a four-person '60 Minutes' TV crew were arrested for attempting to abduct the children. Photo / Getty
Ali Elamine leaves court on April 18, 2016 in Beirut, Lebanon after Sally Faulkner and a four-person '60 Minutes' TV crew were arrested for attempting to abduct the children. Photo / Getty

Jordan said he came across as a "laid-back, chilled surfer dude with an American accent". "That charismatic thing he has about him kind of sucked me in and, yeah, before I knew it I was falling for him," Faulkner said.

She found out she was pregnant just before her three-year contract ended. The pair broke up, and she moved back to Australia.

"Ali didn't want a bar of it," said another friend of Faulkner's, Gordana Raljevik. "I was speaking to him on the phone, he was calling me, calling her, emails, messages, to her, to her family, to herself, just asking her not to have this child."

But when Faulkner was six months pregnant, Elamine arrived in Brisbane and asked her to marry him.

Lahela was born at the end of 2010. Ten days later the pair married. They moved to Lebanon when Lahela was three months old.

"Ali mentioned there was this business venture in Beirut in Lebanon," Faulkner said.

"I just thought my home is wherever he is and wherever Lahela is so I packed up with him. I didn't really think what that actually meant, moving to another country that was [a] 180 from culture we have here, away from my family, away from my friends with a new baby.

"I tried my best to assimilate and to understand Arabic. I tried my best. But I don't think my best was ever good enough."

Faulkner said the first time Elamine separated her from Lahela came during a visit to his parents' house two hours from Beirut. "There was an incident at the house involving a painter who was doing renovations," she said.

"The maid went to give him water and I said, 'Oh, I'll take it to him', because I was going downstairs. I handed him the water, he looked down at me and smiled and that was it. I mean that's all I thought I had done.

"His family and Ali considered that as a big mistake. I should not have made contact in that way. And that's basically what started all of the fight between us.

"We went to hop in the car and had Lahela's things all packed up and Ali said to me, 'Give Lahela to my mum, she wants a cuddle.' I handed her over she took her and walked into the house, and I said, 'What's going on?' and he said, 'Lahela's staying here.'

"She was he was only ten months old. We drove back for two hours, There was not really a word said, but I cried."

Explaining why she agreed to Elamine taking the two children on the holiday from which they never returned last year, Faulkner said she "thought we were on the same page". "We were on a good thing, and we were able to co-parent," she said.

"I said to him, 'Look me in the eye and promise me that you will bring them back. He said, 'See you here in two weeks.' Then he put his arms out and he gave me a hug and he said, 'You're a good, mum, Sal, you're a good mum.' And then he says, 'They'll be all right with me', and I said, 'I trust you.'

"What if I'd just said 'no'? What if I'd said, 'What am I doing? I'm naive, I'm stupid, I'm too trusting. He's done this before'?"