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Sunday 25 November 2012

Italian father custody battle: the family finally speaks on 60 Minutes

The story that has kept the Australian public gripped for several months is finally coming to a head of sorts tonight - the family's story is to screen on 60 Minutes Australia. [UPDATED: 60 Minutes FULL transcript now features... clip will be up shortly. Click here for transcript.

Also, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade response to 60 Minutes question is here.

To watch the entire interview, see below:

Here is the first part of the 60 Minutes transcript:

STORY – TARA BROWN: It was a scene few Australians who saw it will ever forget - children being torn from their mother, the dramatic finale to a tragic family split.
LAURA: The girls running, and then other girls running, girls resisting, screaming, men on top of my children pulling their arm and their hand back, and them screaming for help. I, I, I was hysterical myself. I didn’t know what to do. It’s police, are they allowed to do that to kids? The girls have been taken. It’s my world, my whole world destroyed, and I’m terrified of what’s going to happen.
TARA BROWN: And the Italian father accused of psychological and physical abuse.
TOMMASO: No, is not true. The girl have a - a good relationship with me, and the girl love me. I think is the worst period on my life, this.
TARA BROWN: And in the middle of it all, four innocent girls.
EMILY: My name is Emily Vincenti, and I’m 14 years old.
CLAIRE: My name is Claire Vincenti, and I’m 13 years old.
CHRISTINE: My name is Christine Vincenti, and I’m 10 years old.
LILLIANE: My name is Lilli Vincenti, and I’m 9 years old.
TARA BROWN: But tonight, we reveal the central role played by the Australian Embassy in Rome, that made a mother’s desperate plot to flee Italy possible. So what did the Australian Embassy say to you? What did they say they could do?
LAURA: They said that they could assist me, and they said they would help me come back to Australia.
TOMMASO: The Australian Government is against me.
TARA BROWN: Forgivable or unforgivable?
TOMMASO: For me, is unforgivable. Very unforgivable.
TARA BROWN: On paper, this was a simple case – a family divided and that division dealt with by the Italian courts, just as it would have been in Australia. What makes this different, and what has probably added immeasurably to the trauma of four young girls for whom Italy is home, is the role of the Australian Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs – who helped turn a custody dispute here into an international abduction saga. It’s a nightmare that began as a fairytale. Laura Garrett was just a girl, just 15, and an exchange student, when she met a boy – 16-year-old Tommaso Vincenti, in Florence.
LAURA: I thought it was the most beautiful place in the world. The buildings were ancient. It was beautiful, I was really, really happy to be there.
TARA BROWN: You are in Florence, it would be very hard not to fall in love, I’d imagine.
TOMMASO: Yes. I very fall in love with Laura, yes.
TARA BROWN: Tommaso and Laura were each other’s first love, which blossomed when his family let her stay with them.
TOMMASO: When you are younger, you think everything is forever and the love is forever.
TARA BROWN: So she was very much part of your family.
TOMMASO: Yes, yes, Laura is part of the family. My - my mother and my father consider Laura, ah, daughter.
TARA BROWN: Within a couple of years, Laura was pregnant and a bride. She was just 17, Tommaso – 18. Well, here on your wedding day you look very happy.
TOMMASO: Very happy, yes. Very young also.
TARA BROWN: Very young. Tommaso’s family house in rural Tuscany, the ideal setting to bring up a young family. First there was Emily, then Claire.
TOMMASO: The children like this place, and also they - they, my childrens, ah, grow - grow up, in this place.
TARA BROWN: But three years into the marriage, the young couple suffered the anguish of losing their next daughter, Julienne, at just three months. According to Laura, their daughter’s death in 2000 changed Tommaso.

To continue reading, click here.

Several weeks ago, when the story was at its height in the headlines, I asked my social media friends what they made of the situation.

Here are some of their thoughts. Please feel free to add yours at the bottom of the piece.

Says Anna:"I think the courts should put the children where they want to go. Stuff the laws about where the kids were born. Family courts are all about 'what's best for the children', but that law has nothing to do with what's best for them. I know it's unfair for the father though if he lost his kids.... but something better than this needs to be worked out."

Adds Leigh: "I think there's something going on that we don't know about. Why is the mother scared to go back? Why does she say they hate her in the village? The father seems reasonable, but why are the girls so adamant they don't want to stay? Very curious.

Added Donna: "All I ask is why has the father separated the girls? Something weird is going on. Is divide and conquer? Weird!"

Says Sandra: "The mother doesn't want to go back as she may be charged for kidnapping. The father told the girls if they don't calm down they will be put into foster care!! The girls have no communication with the mother at all now...so it will be interesting how it will unfold!!"

Kasey adds: "I think there's a lot more to it all."

Says Veronica: "The girls seem terrified of staying with their father.....and I find it weird that he hasn't come forward and spoken to media. Its all a bit fishy to me."

Sandra brings up an interesting point: "Don't the girls have dual citizenship?? So is that why the Australian government helped?"

Adds Rita: "All I can say in my ignorance is that as a parent, if my children were screaming to stay with the other parent, as much as it would be killing me, I would have to let them go."

Helen brings up this point: "Josie there are two sides to this story, according to the news last Thursday the father actually allowed the girls to visit the mother thinking they would return to Italy however the mother had a different motive. Claims of abuse by the father was totally rubbish, the father also said he would not press charges against the mother and that he was willing to work on an amicable arrangement to visit the girls in Italy when ever the mother wanted. Never judge anyone until proven guilty, we all don't know the full facts!"

Donna brings up a good point: "I don't think we will ever get the full story and the fact is they made a private battle public but to me it was weird when the father wanted the girls home so much yet divided them them up. I don't understand that, if it was me I'd want all of them home together. I really don't understand both the parents using the girls in a battle of wills and I believe the girls will eventually end up where they want to be. the mother may have to wait for the girls to get older but if they really don't want to be there they will make their way home in the end."

Says Anna: "Ok, these are my observations, and there are always two sides to every story, so without me being on the inside of this case you can never really know what the truth is... Anyway, from the articles I have read, video footage and radio talk back - my opinion is as follows - I think there is something not right about the mother, after all the father trusted the ex with his 4 girls on a 4 week holiday and the mum deceived him by kidnapping the chidren, apparently the girls wanted to return to Italy early on and its been document in the court, however as time has passed the mother has put fear in the children about the father and going back...A mum has immense power over her children - a real major influence, so I am not surprised how they feel as they have been here for over two years...the other thing I dont find quite right is why on the day of the girls departure back to Italy, why was she all dolled up in high heels, flower in her hair and dressed up...if it was me, I wouldnt give a f...about dressing myself up I would be a wreck worrying about my kids...and would look like a complete wreck...last of all the father has dropped charges and also offered to pay for the mums trip back to Italy, so why was she not on that plane, I sure would have been...apparently the relationship broke down in the first place because another daughter had died....they had 5 children together so their life dont think was that bad...how bad could a Tuscan villa be....I would be curious to hear the fathers side...."

And now, on 60 Minutes... both sides.

What are your thoughts? It's been said time and again and it's true: there are NO winners.

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