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My ex took my baby before, says Faulkner

AAP logoAAP 16/10/2016 Belinda Tasker

Sally Faulkner's ex-husband took their baby daughter away from her for three months and kicked the Brisbane mum out of Lebanon four years before her botched attempt to retrieve her children from Beirut.

Ms Faulkner made the claim during her first major interview since the failed bid to kidnap her son and daughter from a Beirut street in April landed her, a 60 Minutes TV crew and three child recovery agents in jail.

During the emotional interview with ABC TV's Australian Story on Monday, Ms Faulkner accused her ex-husband Ali Elamine of taking their then 10-month-old daughter Lahela after an argument about her giving a glass of water to a painter at his parents' home in Lebanon.

As she prepared to leave, Ms Faulkner handed the baby over for a last cuddle with her grandmother, who instead took Lahela inside the house.

"My eyes just widened, my heart started beating faster," Ms Faulkner said, her voice breaking.

"I said, 'What's going on?, and he said, 'Lahela's staying here'."

Despite her protests, Ms Faulkner left Lahela and spent a tearful two hours driving with her husband to their Beirut apartment.

He left and returned two weeks later with her passport, saying: "You're going, Lahela's staying here."

Ms Faulkner flew home to Brisbane without her baby.

It was three months before Mr Elamine returned Lahela to Ms Faulkner, who forgave him and agreed to move back to Lebanon.

When the couple's son Noah was nine months old, Ms Faulkner returned to Brisbane with her children after a spate of bombings in Beirut.

The couple agreed to split but signed a parenting agreement, with Ms Faulkner keen for Mr Elamine to remain part of the children's lives.

Then in 2015 she trusted him to take the children on holiday to Lebanon.

During a Skype video call to her children, Mr Elamine delivered a chilling message.

"He looked at me and said, 'Plans have changed', and that's when every part of me wanted to fall apart," she said.

Mr Elamine told her: "This is what's going to happen. Lahela's not coming back, Sally. She's staying here with me. All right? Lahela and Noah."

Pure desperation drove Ms Faulkner to take part in the failed attempt to kidnap her children in Beirut, where 60 Minutes were on hand to film.

"Before it all went horribly wrong, I genuinely felt that I was doing the right thing," she said.

While she had won custody of the children through the Family Court of Australia, the orders weren't recognised in Lebanon.

Ms Faulkner looked into child recovery agents, but couldn't afford the $80,000-$150,000 fees.

Then 60 Minutes called, she said, saying they were "willing to pay for the recovery if they had the story".

The Nine Network paid former Australian soldier Adam Whittington, who ran a child recovery agency, to return the children to Mrs Faulkner.

"I personally didn't have any doubts," she said. " I wholly and solely trusted what he was about to do."

But it all went wrong, with Ms Faulkner, Mr Whittington and two of his colleagues charged with kidnapping.

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