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.
Family members in Italy involved in the international custody dispute. Photo: Channel Nine
The Australian Family Court ordered the four sisters, aged between nine and 15, be deported 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 standoff, which played out late on Saturday night Australian time, her father became involved in a scuffle with the media.
The Age 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 a Facebook page 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.
Channel Nine reporter Sophie Walsh, who was outside the father's home, said the four girls were reunited at their uncle's home as a compromise. ''The two eldest girls are now with the two younger girls. They're at a property about 15 minutes away,'' Ms Walsh told The Age last night.
''I think it's come out as a result of the mediation talks. One thing the girls were really upset about was the fact they had been separated. One of the sisters said to me that they were separated because their dad thought the older girls would influence the younger girls.''
The girls' maternal grandmother said yesterday she had contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade while her grand-daughter was at the gates, but was told consular officials could not intervene in court proceedings or private legal matters.