60 Minutes kidnapping: What we don't know

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April 16, 2016 By Lisa Visentin

A missing Romanian, a mysterious Dutch woman in a grainy passport photograph, and a motor cruiser moored near a Beirut hotel – there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the botched child-snatch attempt that led to the arrest of Australian mother Sally Faulkner and a 60 Minutes crew.

More than a week after Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes crew were thrown into a Lebanese jail, loose ends surround what has become an international debacle.

Central to the remaining mysteries are British-Australian man Adam Whittington and his accomplice British-Cypriot Craig Michael believed to be from the child recovery agency spearheading the operation to snatch Faulkner's two children Noah, 4, and Lahela, 6, in Beirut on Thursday, April 7.

What remains unclear are the exact identities and roles – if any – of Mr Whittington and Mr Michael's other alleged travelling partners, who are believed to have accompanied the pair on their yacht from Cyprus to Beirut last Wednesday, April 6.

When the yacht was processed by Lebanese Customs, it was recorded as having two women and three men on board, News Corp reported on Saturday. 

But the role, if any, played by the two women is unknown. One is believed to be a Dutch national shown alongside 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown in photos of passports provided to news web site Al Arabiya by Lebanese officials after the plot was foiled.

The passport identifies her as a 36-year-old Dutch woman Antoinette Adriana van den Bersselaar. 

There have been no indications she has been arrested or detained about the plot, leaving the very real possibility she and the other boat passengers were innocent bystanders in Mr Whittington's plans. 

Lebanese media reports have claimed that the boat, moored near the Movenpick hotel, was to be used to take the children from Lebanon through Cyprus and then on to Australia if the plot had succeeded.

Equally unclear is the reported involvement of a Romanian man who has also dropped from the public eye.

Specific details around which individuals grabbed the children as the operation unfolded is also unclear. Purported surveillance footage of the incident aired by a Lebanese television station showed three men lunging for the children from different directions as they waited at a bus stop with their grandmother.

However, Lebanese locals Mohammad Hamza and Khaled Barbour have also been named among the nine arrested by police in the aftermath of the foiled plot. According to the Guardian, the two men were hired by Mr Whittington after he docked in Beirut to snatch the children.

Ms Faulkner, reporter Tara Brown and her Channel Nine crew – cameraman Benjamin Williamson, sound recordist David Ballment and producer Stephen Rice – are facing kidnapping, assault, and criminal conspiracy charges which carry maximum sentences from three to 20 years.

Lebanese authorities have since claimed the operation was bankrolled by Channel Nine to the tune of $115,000.

Lawyers for Ms Faulkner have confirmed she is in negotiations with her estranged husband Ali Elamine to reach a custody agreement, and is understood to be willing to drop her claim for custody if Mr Elamine drops abduction charges against her.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au

Written by

Lisa Visentin


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