I’ve been criticizing the media’s coverage of international kidnapping by mothers a lot lately, but I never guessed it would come to this (ABC, 10/8/12).
Although the facts aren’t yet clear, apparently what happened is this: The Italian man with the four daughters abducted to Australia now has them at his home outside Florence. The girls had been there less than two days when apparently the mother and her female relatives back in Australia alerted the Australian news media in Italy as to their whereabouts. The Australian reporters and cameramen descended on the man’s house and trespassed on his property. The mother or her relatives were in contact with the girls and, when the children told them the media had arrived, instructed them to run outside and beg the reporters, etc. to take them away. When the father attempted to intervene, the members of the media attacked him, breaking the thumb on his right hand and injuring one of his legs.
Here’s how his Australian lawyer, Paul Donnelly described the incident.
PAUL DONNELLY: Apparently one of the older girls had a mobile phone, she made a call to Australia, she received a call back, with that her and her sister then ran out of the front yard of the villa, pleading for the press to help them.My guess is the reporters will say that (a) the father attacked them or more likely (b) the father was brutalizing the girls and the members of the media intervened to “save” them. Of course, since they had cameras, I suspect the whole thing was digitized, so we should know just what happened soon enough.
The father I believe, the grandmother and uncle then tried to get the girls back inside, I mean I’ve seen photos of this, the father is then attacked by members of the press, apparently kicked. I believe he’s got a broken hand, possible broken leg, and severe bruising to his right arm.
SARAH DINGLE: The phone call that the girls received from Australia – do you know if that was from the mother?
PAUL DONNELLY: The grandmother.
SARAH DINGLE: And did the father indicate what was said to the girls?
PAUL DONNELLY: Well this again through the interpreter, that the girls were told to go out and put on a, you know, to plead with the press to help them escape.
SARAH DINGLE: So they were told to go out and front the media and make a stand?
PAUL DONNELLY: That’s apparently correct, yes.
SARAH DINGLE: And do you know if he will be pressing charges against any of the people that he was involved in the…?
PAUL DONNELLY: I would expect so.
SARAH DINGLE: And do you know where those members of the media were from, were they Italian media?
PAUL DONNELLY: I believe they were Australian media.
Whatever the case, it’s worth noting that this is the first real involvement the Australian media have had regarding the father in the entire two-year history of this case. For two years, they didn’t interview him or his lawyers, but now that his children are back with him, they take it on themselves to physically attack him. It doesn’t get much more amazing than that. I hope Donnelly is correct about the dad’s suing whatever media outlets these characters represent.
Meanwhile it should come as no surprise that the mother, who’s still back in Australia along with her mother, grandmother, aunt, etc. seems to think that she’s the one to have been abused in the fracas.
SARAH DINGLE: Eve [the mother's aunt] says the mother is considering a legal challenge in Italy, but the mother won’t be going herself.You remember the mother, Laura Garrett. She’s the one who refuses to follow her daughters to Italy because she claims she doesn’t have the money to go there. That’s despite the fact that the father was ordered to pay her $8,000 Australian, and did so. Now it appears she can scrape together the money to file a lawsuit in Italy, based on what I can’t even guess.
EVE: She’s looking at all the options possible at this stage and I know she is talking to legal people and there’s people, supporters of the girls, who are looking at getting some money together and raising money I think, I assume for legal fees.
By now it should be clear that Laura Garrett has, throughout this entire affair, and even before, labored relentlessly to gain attention for herself at the expense of her children’s emotional well-being. This travesty is just the latest in that lengthy process. If she wanted to be a caring mother to those children, she’d already be in Italy where the authorities have as much as promised not to prosecute her and, even if they did, to give her probation. But she prefers to play the martyr, all the while goading the children long distance to ever-greater resistance to their father’s love. It’s beyond disgraceful.
SARAH DINGLE: Child psychiatrist Dr Louise Newman says in such custody struggles, what the children need most is stability, and if necessary, to be sheltered from the media.Stability? That’s the last thing the kids will get from their mother and her enabling relatives. As Dr. Newman said, this is bad for their psychological well-being. But Laura Garrett tossed that out the window over two years ago when she shanghaied them to Australia planning never to return. She’s been harming them ever since.
LOUISE NEWMAN: What we’re seeing is the way in which children can become players in this ongoing saga of conflict between parents. Children should not be, if at all possible, embroiled in these sorts of situations, certainly children should not be exposed to media coverage of these sorts of situations and it’s a potentially very negative in fact on their psychological wellbeing.
What’s sad in these situations is that sometimes the adults involved do not shield the children in the way that would be far more appropriate, and in fact they encourage them.
Stay tuned; this one’s obviously not over yet.