Savannah Harris Todd, who now goes by the name Samantha Geldenhuys, says her kidnapper mother is "incredible".

Savanna Todd, who now goes by the name Samantha Geldenhuys, says her kidnapper mother is "incredible". Photo: Today Tonight

Twenty years ago, Savanna Catherine Todd was kidnapped from her American home by her mother, who had just lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband.

But speaking to Channel Seven's Today Tonight, the Townsville-based woman, who now goes by the name Samantha Geldenhuys, said she was "not a victim".

She was just 10 months old and at the centre of a bitter custody battle in South Carolina when her mother, Dorothy Lee Barnett, fled with her from the US in 1994.

Savannah Harris Todd was discovered at age 20 living in Australia.

Savanna Todd was discovered at age 20 living in Australia. Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Ms Barnett had lost custody based, in part, on a "variant of bipolar disorder" diagnosis. She was granted access to her daughter every second weekend, but after her first visit she refused to return the girl.

Contempt-of-court proceedings took place, but Ms Barnett was not stripped of visitation rights and just weeks later, in April 1994, Ms Barnett and Savanna disappeared during a supervised visit.

Her biological father, Benjamin Harris Todd III, a stockbroker, has been searching for her ever since.

Dorothy Lee Barnett

Dorothy Lee Barnett Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Ms Barnett is alleged to have fled to Europe on a false passport, changing her name to Alexandra Canton.

In 1995, she married a man named Juan Geldenhuys in South Africa, with whom she had a son. The family moved to New Zealand, before settling in Australia in 2007.

Ms Barnett, now 53, was arrested on the Sunshine Coast in November and faces an extradition hearing on Monday charged with kidnapping, for which she could face more than 20 years in an American jail.

Savannah Harris Todd was taken when she was 11 months old.

Savanna Todd was taken when she was 11 months old. Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

In an interview aired on Tuesday night, Samantha Geldenhuys said she was heartbroken by the potential penalties her mother faced.

"I have recently found out she won't be allowed back in the country, she won't see my first-born, she won't see me get married," she told Today Tonight.

"It's not something I want to think about. I think she deserves to be there."

Ms Geldenhuys, who has no memory of her biological father, said she had no idea of her past until it became apparent the authorities had caught up with Ms Barnett.

"She became the most incredible woman when she realised she had saved me," she said.

"Whatever the case, she succeeded in what she wanted to do and it wasn't easy along the way.

"She gave up everything that she loved, she knew, and she started anew just for me."

The revelation also meant Ms Geldenhuys learnt Mr Geldenhuys was not her biological father.

"I called back within a couple of minutes and said 'Does this mean Dad is not my dad?' and she said 'He protected you,'" she said.

Mr Geldenhuys returned to South Africa about four years ago and is believed to have died from bone cancer in October, just weeks before his former wife's arrest.