The mother of four young girls missing in Australia has managed to speak to them on the phone -- but still has no idea where they are or when she will get to see them again.
Stacey Smith has not seen her daughters Charity-Beth, 11, Evergreen, 8, Summer, 3, and Serenity, 2, in more than five weeks after their father, New Zealander Joseph Smith, took them from their Melbourne school and daycare on October 27.
Mrs Smith and her husband separated in January and shared custody of their daughters, meaning Mr Smith was not breaking any laws and making it difficult for police to act.
Until yesterday, Mrs Smith had only had a few emails from her estranged husband.
"You kind of go through days when you're coping and other days you're just surviving.
"Every day I ring repeatedly and regularly and hope that he will answer.
"Yesterday he answered the phone and let me talk to the older girls for a minute and I was trying to ask them where they were but he obviously had the phone on speaker and snatched it off them."
She said the girls did not say much.
"They just said hello and that they love me."
Mrs Smith, a 35-year-old account administrator, suspected her husband may have taken the girls to Brisbane, where he had other relatives.
Earlier this week, a Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed the children's names were on the missing persons list and police were looking for them.
However, today a spokeswoman said the authority was unable to comment on the matter while it was before the Family Court.
While the girls have been missing, Mrs Smith has missed two of their birthdays and was dreading the possibility of Christmas without them.
"It is really just unfair and now I am dreading, 'oh my gosh am I going to get them back before Christmas?' I am starting to think of that because it has already been a long amount of time."