THE mother of four Sunshine Coast children in the middle of an international custody battle has had her application dismissed.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, faced the Family Court this morning while her children remain in hiding with a relative.

The mother was also found to be in contempt of court and until the children are handed to DOCS the case won't be heard.

With the help of a great aunt, the eldest girl, aged 14, applied to the court this morning for a stay of proceedings.

The presiding judge said he was concerned about hearing the application while the children remained hidden by the adult members of their family.

This afternoon, the judge refused to hear any applications by the eldest daughter, her great-aunt or her mother, saying he suspected the children's relatives were in contempt of court in helping the children to hide.

He said the applications could not be heard while the children were still at large in contravention of the court's orders.

The judge said his orders made yesterday to have the children returned to Italy still stand.

The judge also criticised media coverage of the case, particularly that of a Brisbane newspaper, which ran a photograph on its front page identifying the children.

More on today's court case at brisbanetimes.com.au

 

Morning update

THE fate of four Sunshine Coast children at the centre of an international custody battle will be decided after 2pm today.

The mother of the children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, defied a court order to hand over her daughters to their Italian father at Brisbane Airport last night as per a family court directive.

The four young girls have told various media outlets this week they do not wish to return to Italy and live with their aggressive father.

The father was in court this morning.

The Family Court heard this morning the children are in hiding with a relative.

Justice Colin Forrest is deciding whether he will hear any applications, in particular for a stay of proceedings, from the mother or a guardian while the children are in hiding.

Justice Forrest, who made the initial return order, said the order required the children to return to Italy in their father's care until the mother made it clear she was not going to Italy herself.

"She had a choice," Justice Forest said.

"If she decided to go back with them, the father of the children was to send her some money to assist."

Lawyer for the mother, Graham Page, said the mother did not know of her childrens' whereabouts and was not a party in their disappearance.

Justice Forest said the youngest child had told a psychiatrist that she "wanted to go home to Italy."

He said one must realise the youngest children maybe acting under the influence of the other children.

Justice Forrest asked Mr Page to tell him why he should hear any applications until the children were brought out of hiding.

He said the children were actually being hidden, rather than hiding themselves.

The matter was been adjourned until 2:15pm when Justice Forrest is expected to hand down his decision.

 

Girls' father 'never turned up'

THE mother of the four missing girls and an aunt waited for 30 minutes at Brisbane's International airport till midnight for a father that did not arrive.

The aunt said they saw two people, believed to be from the Department of Communities, but they simply spoke to an official and left.

"They did not talk to us," the aunt said.

The mother had thought about not making an appearance at the airport after legal advice suggested it could be avoided.

"But she decided to go as her lawyer said as "a matter of courtesy, it would look better if you went".

She had been ordered by the Family Court to hand the four children over to their father at midnight for deportation to Italy.

The mother is now waiting anxiously for a Family Court hearing, scheduled for 10am, to hear another aunt's request for a stay.

"My sister (the aunt who initially disappeared with the children) is representing the case and will ask for a stay so the matter of overturning the proceedings can be heard".

The mother will not attend.

"She's not going. She is in Brisbane, but she is overwhelmed and she doesn't need to be there."

The four children are still in hiding, but "they are fine".

"They are with my mother somewhere," the aunt said

News broke late last night the eldest daughter managed to get a stay.

"We heard this on the news," the aunt said.

"Another lawyer managed to get the eldest daughter a stay, I'm not sure why it didn't include the others.  Maybe it is her age or something."

The aunt said the family was very disappointed neither the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard or Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, were prepared to get involved.

"They've just brushed it off.  As a matter of compassion they could have taken some level of interest," she said.

Federal Police have been questioning both the mother and the other aunt as to the whereabouts of the children.

The move comes after Prime Minister Julia Gillard advised she cannot intervene.

The girl's mother, with the help of Federal MP Alex Somlyay, made an impassioned plea to the Prime Minister's office yesterday as the clock ticked closer towards their midnight deadline to board a plane with their dad.

This morning the girls remain in hiding with their great grandmother after missing the deadline overnight.

Their mother has told media she plans to lodge a last ditch effort through the Family Court this morning to stop the girls being sent to Italy.

She also said her eldest daughter had obtained independent legal counsel and had won a stay on her removal from the country.

In the meantime, federal police are now searching for other sisters.

The girls have written heart-felt letters to their father pleading for him to let them stay in Australia, saying they want to live with their mother and stay on the Sunshine Coast.

The eldest, aged 14, wrote: "Do you really think taking us away from our mother is going to make our lives better?"

"You are the only one who can stop this from happening so please stop this now and let us live here with our mum.

"I do not feel safe with you."

A younger daughter wrote that she wanted to stay in Australia because she felt much safer and needed her mummy.

But late yesterday afternoon Ms Gillard sent a statement saying she could not help.

"I feel for everyone involved in this distressing case, as it is obviously a very difficult and complex family matter," she said

"However, as a Family Court matter, it is not appropriate for me, or for other politicians, to make comment on this particular family's situation.

"The Family Court and the full bench of the Family Court have considered the matter in detail."

Acting Attorney-General Jason Clare also said no help could be provided as the outcome "has been finally determined by the Family Courts".

"Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction," he said.

"By being a signatory to this convention, Australian parents who claim their children have been abducted overseas by their other parent can seek their return to Australia so that child custody disputes can be resolved by the courts in Australia.

"The same principle applies if parents from another country claim their children have been brought to Australia from overseas without their permission."

Similarly, Premier Campbell Newman said there was nothing he could do despite the mother's pleas for help because it was a Federal Court matter.

"It's a terrible, heart-rending situation and I just hope it's resolved quickly," he said. "I'm always prepared to give my personal support if that was felt to be of assistance."

The girl's mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made a frantic dash to Brisbane late yesterday in the hope a new lawyer might work a last-minute miracle.

"The lawyer offered to lodge an affidavit which can overturn the Hague Decision under special circumstances," the girls' aunt said.

The four girls were "still missing" and were unlikely to appear until the matter was resolved.

"There is no sign of the kids," the aunt said.



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