REUNION: The four sisters, Lily, Christine, Emily and Claire with their mother in Italy.
REUNION: The four sisters, Lily, Christine, Emily and Claire with their mother in Italy. Contributed

Relative says girls in bitter custody battle "coached"

THE great-grandmother of the four girls at the centre of a bitter custody dispute believes they were "coached" into their tearful television interview on 60 Minutes.

The girls were forcibly removed from their mother's home on the Coast in 2012.

"If you knew them, those smiles were not smiles," Carol Highton, of Buderim, claimed.

"They were smiles backed by tears. They weren't authentic."

The girl's mother, Laura Garrett, who now posts on Facebook as Laura Kate, returned yesterday after spending nearly two weeks with the girls in Italy.

It had been two and a half years since she last saw them, weeping and calling out, as they were taken by police to Brisbane airport.

Laura declined to answer questions about the television program although the letter she wrote to 60 Minutes, pleading with presenter Tara Brown not to air the show, has been posted on Facebook.

Laura said she had encouraged the girls to make friends and get on with their life and was pleased to see they had made friends.

RELATED: GIRLS IN CUSTODY ROW SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT

 

 

"It would be heart-wrenching for them not to have made friends," she said.

"But it is still very difficult for them.

"The youngest has only just made friends and it has been a slow process, it has been difficult."

Laura said there were "court orders" that the media was not to be involved.

Mrs Highton said "no girl wants to grow up without their mother, especially the little ones".

She believed the girls had been offered money by 60 Minutes for the interview, estimated by another source at 10,000 euros.

Mrs Highton said her granddaughter had been working hard and studying at university since her children left.

"She has put her head down and worked," she said.

"She got high distinction for everything she did.

"She is such an intelligent, articulate young woman,'' she said.

"All the things that were said about her were lies."

Current Affairs program 60 Minutes has responded to allegations from the Sunshine Coast great-grandmother of the four Italian girls that they were being "coached" for the interview.

A publicist for 60 Minutes said the girls  "spoke freely of their own accord".

 

"We dealt directly with the girls and their father and had their express permission at all times," she said.

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