Four girls being deported to Italy. Pictured with their great grandmother Caryl Highton.
Four girls being deported to Italy. Pictured with their great grandmother Caryl Highton. Cade Mooney

Gran defies court order

THE great-grandmother has vowed to keep the four children in hiding until it can be guaranteed she won't have to give them over to their father.

Buderim's Caryl Highton disappeared with the four girls on Monday afternoon after their mother was ordered to hand them over to the Department of Communities.

The children were expected to be taken to the Brisbane airport by midnight on Tuesday for a flight back to their father's home in Florence, Italy where an Italian court would decide their custody arrangements.

But when the Department moved the date forward to Monday afternoon, the children went missing.

They were picked up from their Maroochydore schools by an aunt and then taken to their great-grandmother later in the day.

They haven't been seen by their mother or aunts since.

In an interview with Today Tonight, Ms Highton said the children were "fine".

"They are with me now, they are happy," she said.

Ms Highton has been summonsed to appear before the court on Friday to explain the children's whereabouts.

She said she had no plans to make the court date.

"No, I won't," she said. "I have no respect for the justice system. I will not leave them alone for one second until they can be safely with their mother."

She said she feared for the children's safety with the father.

"If he got these children alone, God help them," she said.

She said the children were "happy", despite the circumstance.

"Nobody knows where they are now and that is the way it will stay," she said.

She said the youngest child - who is nine-year-old - didn't not completely understand the situation,

."She is aware of the threat of being taken away from her mother," she said.

She said she would "live" with her decision to stay in hiding.

"I'll do what has to be done," she said.

She said any grandmother; any mother would do the same.

"Till someone makes a ruling to protect them," she said.

Late last night an aunt said no one was aware the great-grandmother had spoken on television.

"None of us can contact her," she said.

She said despite the stressful day, the family was determined not to give up.

"The legal team hasn't given up," she said.

She said no one had spoken to the father during the legal proceedings.

"The mother is terrified of him," she said.

She said the mother didn't want to have the case heard in Italy as she didn't believe she would be given a fair hearing.

"They view relationships differently there, it is a cultural issue," she said.

"There wouldn't be much support for a woman who leaves her husband. She doesn't feel she will be protected by an Italian court."