The excitement over the four daughters of the Italian father and Australian mother is over, at least the part in Australia. In the wee hours of the morning after Australian Judge Colin Forest ordered them returned to their father in Italy, the four were forcibly put on two separate airplanes at Brisbane International Airport bound for Rome. They did not go peacefully.
Later, one of the younger girls cried “let me go, I want my mum, I want my mum”, as each of her arms was held by a police officer…
The separation led to painful scenes, filmed by Australian media, and the four girls were eventually flown back on two separate flights. The two older girls, aged 14 and 15, were flown on Thursday at 8.45pm, local time, and were seen “sobbing” aboard the plane. The younger girls who had flown out earlier were reportedly “miserable” but quiet.
The great-grandmother of the girls said they had been treated “worse than animals”.
“They were scared out of their wits,” she said. “They were kicking, they were thrown on the ground.”
You might ask “why?” For girls between the ages of nine and 15 to carry on so about going to Italy, where they’ve lived all but two years of their lives, to be with their father whom they love, something strange must be going on, and indeed it is. As I’ve reported before, for two years now, the girls’ mother, Laura Garrett, has done everything imaginable to convince courts, the media and her daughters that they should remain in Australia in violation of international law. She played the “father is abusive card,” but that didn’t work. The court investigated and found her claims to be unsupported by facts. She then protracted the litigation in Australian courts in the hope that the passage of time might convince a court that the best interests of the children required them to have no relationship with their father.
That tactic failed as well because the Australian judge enforced the law that requires the courts of the children’s country of habitual residence to decide what’s in their best interests.
During all that time, Laura Garrett and her mother, her grandmother and aunt worked on the girls to convince them that, if they returned to Italy, their mother would be unable to join them there. That’s because, so they told the girls, Dad had filed a criminal complaint against her in Italy for her abduction of them. That was a lie, as Italian authorities verified to the Australian court, but the women repeated it often enough that the girls obviously came to believe it. Just to clinch the deal, Judge Forest required the father, as a condition of returning the girls to Italy, to refrain from filing a criminal complaint against the mother there. He agreed.
So, given that the sole claim of the mother (a) was never true and (b) can never be true, why were the girls so upset about returning to Italy, the country they were born in and that, when they first arrived in Australia, expressed great affection for? It turns out that the mother and her relatives had a back-up plan to convince the children that she can’t go to Italy with them – money. According to her and her grandmother, she has none and, if she were to go to Italy, she’d be unable to work. As we’ve by now come to expect, neither claim is true.
In the first place, the court ordered the father to give the mother $8,000 Australian, which he did and which Judge Forest expressly stated had been paid. In addition, Garrett is a university student and receives a stipend from the Australian government for being one. So how is it that she doesn’t have any money? The answer is she has money, but, as at all times in the past two years, wants to manipulate the girls’ emotions in the matter.
As to her working in Italy, the father informed me that, after they separated, she had a job at a rather prestigious hotel in Florence. Given the fact that she speaks both English and Italian almost flawlessly, one would think getting a job in Italy’s enormous tourist industry should be possible.
So the money angle looks like a dodge to further ramp up the emotional trauma for the girls and garner sympathy for herself. Nice.
As if that weren’t enough, great-grandma even informed the press that ‘‘If she (the girl’s mother) went back to Italy she would have absolutely no money at all, she would have nowhere to stay, every person in the village has been poisoned against her.”
It’s an affecting image – a small village that lives in the (perhaps medieval) past, “poisoned” against the outsider, every door barred against the homeless waif. Of course that “village” is the city of Florence, whose greater urban area population is close to 700,000 and that receives some 1.6 million tourists a year. Fully 99.99% of those people have no idea of who Laura Garrett is or of her propensity for law breaking.
(As an aside, I’d like to give readers some idea of the type of people this father and the Australian courts have been dealing with lo these many years. Back when the father and Garrett were still together and raising their children in Italy, they received a visit from her mother and her boyfriend. The two checked into a hotel, but after two days, announced they were out of money. So the father moved them into his house with Laura and the four girls. After a while, Laura’s mother announced that she wanted to travel around Italy by car. They had no money, so they asked the father to pay for the rental car, which he did, ponying up €1500 as a security deposit. The two left Florence and soon Laura and the father began receiving postcards from France. Six weeks into the pair’s supposed driving trip in Italy, there was no longer any contact with them at all. The father, of course, was paying for the car all this time. Laura reported the car stolen to the local police. But (speaking of ‘stolen’), eventually the father figured out that his mother-in-law had stolen one of his credit cards. They used the billings to track the couple to a small town in Spain. The father and Laura hied themselves to Spain and began looking for the “walkabout” in-laws. When they found them, the car was badly damaged, the tires were flat and the two had been living in it for weeks. They were arrested for car theft. The father paid in all about €5,000 for car repairs as well as airfare back to Australia for Laura’s mother and her boyfriend. That’s Mom, so I wonder how far from the tree the fruit has fallen.)
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Great-grandma vowed to the Australian press that “this isn’t over yet.” Well, it certainly is if Garrett doesn’t drop her various pretenses, get on a plane for Italy and play whatever part in her daughters’ lives the Italian courts permit. Assuming she does that – and I can’t believe she won’t – we’ll see how those courts treat her multiple violations of law, including child abduction and perjury. You’d think they’d be pretty cautious about what sort of contact with the girls they’d allow her, but whatever happens, Garrett’s problems are entirely of her own making.