Recently, a case was brought to the media’s attention of a mother trying to stop her children being returned to Italy by order of the Family Court. Throughout this case the mother, her mother (the children’s grandmother) and the great-grandmother have all had a spot in the media limelight while fighting, they claimed, to save the children.
However, when the grandmother threatened to murder the children, it seemed that the media, in an extraordinary display of bigotry, decided it was best to pretend that it didn’t happen.
The media fell over themselves to speak sympathetically of a mother’s angst of losing her children. They routinely parroted her fears of abuse at the hands of the father, with occasional references to his denials. Quite often, they left out the part where the judge said the accusations had no substance. The father’s battle with depression was discussed as though it was still current, even though court documents showed that it ended some years ago.
But when the authorities declared the children “missing” on May 14, 2012 not one outlet reported the reason. This was instigated because the grandmother had told the mother’s lawyer that she would murder the children if a meeting on their future was not “successful”.
Even when the grandmother was interviewed by the media in the days and weeks that followed, the subject never came up. It is a cover-up of the most scandalous proportions.
Four Italian girls were brought to Australia on a supposed holiday by their Australian mother two years ago. The father, an Italian, sought through The Hague Convention to have his abducted children returned to their homeland.
When the mother lost her appeal in the Family Court on May 4, 2012, and the children were ordered to return to their native Italy, she turned to the press for assistance. The mother’s supporters also created a facebook page entitled “Kids Without Voices” at the same time (Kids Without Voices, 2012).
The threats made on the children’s lives, however, were not publicised.
On May 4, the court ordered that the children be delivered the Brisbane International Airport on May 16, 2012 by the mother so that they could fly to Italy. On May 14, however, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services made a special application to the court. According to the media, this was because the children were in hiding.
What was in hiding, however, was the truth. The Department had just found out that the maternal grandmother had called the mother’s barrister, Mr Page SC, and…
“…informed him [Mr Page] of a meeting that was to take place this afternoon, Monday, 14 May, and that if the meeting was not successful that she would murder the children. (Family Court 1, 2012)”
Mr Page, in court, confirmed that it was the maternal grandmother who had called him; that she had used the words “murder the children”; and that she, not someone else, would kill them.
The court was also told,
“ in that same conversation that she [the maternal grandmother]would encourage her daughter [the mother of children]… to kill herself too.”
Not one word of this was reported. It was said in court on May 14, 2012. It was also referenced on May 16, in court, as the reason for the orders to search for the children (Famliy Court 2, 2012). Further, on June 15, 2012, the threats of murder and suicide were again spelled out by the judge (Family Court 3, 2012).
For the Brisbane Times, Marissa Calligeros and Freya Petersen wrote an article called “Judge Orders Children to Italy”. The pair’s seemingly in depth article included various lawyers’ legal opinions and an interview with the grandmother.
Not one word of the threats.
“The girls’ grandmother said her daughter – their mother – had turned to the media ‘as a last resort’ and had been overwhelmed by the attention. The woman said her daughter had been driven to the brink by the legal battle but she believed her grandchildren to be healthy. (Calligeros & Petersen, 2012)”
No question like: “What about these alleged threats that you would murder these children?”
The ABC on its website covered the story on May 17, 2012. There are repeated references to the mother’s claims that the father is abusive (ABC News, 2012).
The ABC then quotes reporter Annie Guest’s summary of the case. Guest’s version of the mother’s repeated denials of knowledge of the children’s whereabouts was “So the court didn’t hear exactly where the children are.”
So what, exactly, did the court hear? The mother’s lawyer said “Since midmorning on 14 May my client instructs that she has not known the location of her daughters.”
The judge then made this point:
“There is nothing about the circumstances as to when they last left the mother’s care. There is nothing about any reasonable enquiries [sic] that the mother has exhausted to try to find them since, nothing like that at all”
In other words, the mother is claiming that suddenly, with no warning, the children just disappeared. One moment, they were there. The next moment, they were gone.
Where did the mother look for them? Well, she didn’t have to look. They were already gone.
Guest then repeats the line: “And her argument has essentially been that she has alleged that the father, the Italian father, was abusive.”
However, her summary of the threats of murder and suicide?
Kay Dibben, of the Courier Mail, wrote on May 20, 2012 that the father was hoping the children would be found soon. This hardly surprising news was spiced up, at the end, with a reference to the father’s mental condition and, again, the allegations of father’s abuse (Dibben, 2012).
Does Dibben make any reference to the grandmother’s bizarre threats that the judge took very seriously?
The Brisbane Times, with a headline of “Mum to front court to keep girls in Australia” tells us “The mother accuses the father of being abusive, while the father says the mother abducted the children from Italy and fled with them to Australia. (AAP, 2012).”
This “one goal each” kind of balanced view, of course, does not include the grandmother’s threats in any form.
Even 60 Minutes Australia ignored the attention grabbing murder threats, and instead presented a view that the mother might still get to keep her children (60 Minutes, 2012).
Again, the claims of abuse are aired. Again, the mother’s claims that she doesn’t know anything of the children’s whereabouts are met without question.
The cameras actually follow the mother to the Brisbane Airport to prove, apparently, that she has shown goodwill in meeting the court orders. It’s just unfortunate that she doesn’t have the children with her.
Oh, well. She tried.
And concern for the children’s safety?
Is she asked if she is concerned that her mother might carry out her threats to murder the children?
Is she asked if her mother has encouraged her to consider suicide?
The Courier Mail also ran an extraordinary story which has since been removed from their website. Fortunately, the Fathers for Equality made a copy of it. In this article, the father is termed as “abusive and mentally unstable” and refer to claims of beatings that were never made in court. Worse, they say…
“But the father, his lawyers, the Family Court, and the state Department of Communities and Child Safety show no signs of backing down and are using police to hunt the girls. (Unknown, 2012)”
They demonize everyone else involved with no mention of the very real fears for the children’s safety.
If this is not bad enough, a search on Google for “Italy family court girls murder” only brings up one reference to this case. That reference is to Mamamia, which from the search entry shows that the article at one time made a reference to the murder claims.
However, follow the link and you’ll find an article that does not mention the murder claims at all. Instead, you will find an updated article that is sympathetic to the mother’s case. Interestingly, the grandmother is interviewed (Mamamia, 2012). This is dated one week after the threats were made, and clearly Mamamia was aware of them. The grandmother is quoted as saying ““They were scared out of their wits, the children were hysterical so my Mum [the great grandmother] took them.”
Not one question about the death threats.
Last, but by no means least, is a radio interview by Greg Cary of 4BC 1116 News Talk radio show with the grandmother (4BC 1116 News Talk, 2012).
This interview took place on May 14, 2012. It is probably the case that Cary was unaware of these threats, as they were only being talked about in the court on the same day. However, it is quite chilling to hear the woman who made these threats speak about this case as though the threats never happened.
Can you imagine what would have happened if the father, or some member of his side of the family, had made anything like this threat? Can you imagine the uproar if, after such a threat, the children suddenly went “missing”.
The father’s case would have been thrown out of court in a heart-beat and the person who made the threat would have been arrested and charged on the same day. The children would have been found before nightfall.
Every newspaper in the land would have the story on the front pages. “Have you seen this man” with mug shots would have been all over Crimestoppers.
By now, of course, it is clear that the threats of the grandmother have not been carried out. At best, it is arguable that the threat was made to emotionally blackmail the lawyers, the court and the father to let the mother win. At worst, the children are possibly still in danger.
Whatever the case, the threats should have been newsworthy. This is the kind of media blackout normally associated with dictatorships. That they were not even mentioned shows a deliberate attempt at trial by media where the Italian father was certainly not given a fair hearing.
I urge you to follow the links on this story. The news articles, particularly for me the 60 minutes report and the interview on 4BC with the grandmother, are surreal when you realise that murder threats were made.
4BC 1116 News Talk. (2012, May 14). Please Help Us!!! Retrieved August 21, 2012, from 4BC 1116: http://www.4bc.com.au/blogs/greg-cary-blog/please-help-us/20120514-1ym4m.html
60 Minutes. (2012, May 16). Top News Headlines. Retrieved August 21, 2012, from 60 Minutes: http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/videoindex.aspx
AAP. (2012, May 16). Mum to front court to keep girls in Australia. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Brisbane Times: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/mum-to-front-court-to-keep-girls-in-australia-20120516-1yppf.html
ABC News. (2012, May 17). Judge rejects applications over girls in hiding. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-16/judge-rejects-applications-over-girls-in-hiding/4015312
Calligeros, M., & Petersen, F. (2012, May 16). Judge orders children to Italy. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Brisbane Times: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/judge-orders-children-to-italy-20120515-1youm.html
Dibben, K. (2012, May 20). Italian father of four girls in hiding says he hopes they will be found soon. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Courier Mail: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/girls-family-friends-wait-with-open-arms/story-e6freoof-1226361128573
Family Court 1. (2012, May 14). Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services & Garning (No. 2)  FamCA 353 (14 May 2012). Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Austlii: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FamCA/2012/353
Family Court 3. (2012, June 15). Garning & Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (No 2)  FamCA 482 (15 June 2012). Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Austlii: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FamCA/2012/482.html
Famliy Court 2. (2012, May 16). Garning & Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services  FamCA 354 (16 May 2012). Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Austlii: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FamCA/2012/354.html
Kids Without Voices. (2012, May 13). Kids Without Voices. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kidswithoutvoices/info
Mamamia. (2012, May 21). Runaway kids found by police after property raid. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Mamamia: http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/kidnapped-children-on-the-run-from-abusive-dad-declared-missing/
Remeikis, A., & Farouque, F. (2012, May 15). Custody battle: PM urged to help kids on the run. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/national/custody-battle-pm-urged-to-help-kids-on-the-run-20120514-1ynd5.html
Unknown. (2012, May 15). Abusive Father or Parental Alienation. Retrieved August 21, 2012, from Fathers 4 Equality: http://www.f4e.com.au/blog/2012/05/15/abusive-father-or-parental-alienation/
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