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Sisters back in Italy, but not staying with father

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Adam Cooper, Kristian Silva

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Sister begs reporter for help

Reporter Sophie Walsh describes the "heartbreaking" scene as a sister sent back to Italy pleads "you cannot leave me here". Vision courtesy Nine News.

PT0M0S 620 349

FOUR sisters at the centre of an international custody dispute are together in Italy but away from their father's property after two of them tried to escape from his home.

Just a day after being taken to their father's villa on the outskirts of Florence, the two older girls ran to the front gates when they saw media camped outside and pleaded for reporters to help them return to Australia.

The eldest girl was taken back inside by her father, while her sister clung to the gate as her grandmother urged her to return inside. She held onto the gate for an hour, during which local police and social workers arrived.

The Australian Family Court ordered the four sisters, aged between nine and 15, be sent to Italy after their mother brought them to Australia for a holiday in 2010 and they never returned.

As the girl clung to the gate during the stand-off on Saturday, her father became involved in a scuffle with the media.

The Herald has been sent photographs from a supporter of the father, one showing a man's thumb bandaged and another showing a graze on his shin.

A post on Facebook claimed the father was ''attacked'' by the media and that their presence had been ''particularly invasive''.

''The father and the family understand that it will require patience to re-establish the harmony the girls once experienced in Italy, and reverse the painful stresses they have endured in the last two years,'' the post said.

The girl eventually agreed to return to the house but it is understood she and her older sister were moved to their uncle's home.

The girls' maternal grandmother said yesterday she had contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade while her granddaughter was at the gates, but was told consular officials could not intervene in court proceedings or private legal matters.

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