A year on from the 60 Minutes kidnapping attempt
IT'S been one year since Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner last had contact with her two young children she was forced to leave behind, following a botched child abduction recovery operation in Lebanon.
"This time a year ago I was about to be arrested and was about to go to jail for doing what any parent would do given the circumstances," Ms Faulkner wrote on Facebook this week.
"Lahela and Noah were about to be so cruelly taken from their mum again ... this past year has been hell."
Ms Faulkner, a former air hostess and current childcare worker, spends hours every week trawling the internet for information and photos of her children because it's the only way she can see or learn anything new about them on the other side of the world.
The mother of three had her last meal with her eldest children Lahela, 6 and Noah, 4 at a McDonalds in the Beirut suburb of Furn El Chebbak before she kissed and hugged them goodbye in the fast food outlet's play centre on April 22, 2016.
Today she lives with the constant ache in the gaping hole that losing them has created.
"I do not have, and did not have any contact with them from the moment I said goodbye to them at the Lebanon McDonalds," Ms Faulkner recently said.
The last time Ms Faulkner held Lahela and Noah, she had just been released from prison with a 60 Minutes crew, including star reporter Tara Brown, after two weeks behind bars.
The group had faced the possibility of receiving much longer sentences for hiring professionals to snatch the children from their paternal grandmother off a Beirut street on April 7 last year. The attempt was foiled when police were tipped off and later raided the 'safe house' that Ms Faulkner and her children were staying in before arresting those involved.
The children were returned to their father Ali Elamine, who had lured them to Lebanon on the pretence of a holiday in May 2015, then refused to send them home to their mother - despite Ms Faulkner having full custody of them in Australia.
Ms Faulkner relinquished custodial rights under Australian law to Elamine so he would drop abduction charges against her that carried a maximum 20 year sentence. He was also reportedly paid more than $1 million by 60 Minutes to drop charges against the television crew.
Elamine has since been granted full custody in Lebanon under a religious order.
For Ms Faulkner, the emotional turmoil has only intensified since her return to Australia.
The only time she has laid eyes on Lahela and Noah over the past year has been on the rare occasion she has found new pictures of them on the internet.
Each image of them has lifted and crushed her at once but two of them were particularly heart wrenching. The most recent was a photo of a daycare centre table with framed pictures of the smiling children with their mothers to mark Mother's Day in Lebanon. Among the sea of photos was one of Noah, alone.
"I've had countless photos taken with my children for the years before we were so cruelly separated from each other," Ms Faulkner wrote on Facebook earlier this week.
"This morning I woke up to find this photo.
"My heart absolutely broke into a million pieces.
"Our little angel Noah. His daddy couldn't even find a photo of the two of us and put it on the table with the other photos. Instead a simple portrait photo of Noah went on the table.
"The only child in that class that didn't have a photo of their mummy with them."
Ms Faulkner went on to ask Elamine "why (he was) doing this".
"How does your heart not hurt? Because mine just broke so much more this morning seeing this," she asked.
"I can only imagine what our little children thought during Mother's Day without their mum.
"A phone call or some form of communication is not hard."
In December 2016, Ms Faulkner came across a photo that showed Lahela staring off sadly into the distance in a crowd of her smiling classmates.
In an emotional post on her Facebook page, Ms Faulkner said it looked like her daughter was a "million miles away with her mummy in the only place she is allowed ... her mind".
"What is she thinking in this moment? She looks so lost! I miss you Lahela," Ms Faulkner wrote.
"I hope you were looking out the window dreaming of the moment you and your brother come home and are truly happy again."
Ms Faulkner also has a little boy, Eli, with her current partner Brendan Price.
"I want so desperately to be a mummy to all of you and I crave to see you all playing together right in front of me," she said earlier this week.
"This craving consumes me daily and I believe that if you want/need something so deeply, then eventually you'll find a way to bring it into your life."
She recently revealed she was almost financially broke following the custody saga.
She told the Courier Mail in January she had moved back with her mother and had almost nothing. She said the $150,000 she received for her memoir All For My Children published in November last year has been swallowed up in legal fees and debts incurred during her time in Lebanon.
A gofundme page has been set up by Ms Faulkner's friend Tanya White to help fund legal fees and continue to fight for custody of the children in Lebanon.
Ms Faulkner said she will "never accept" being estranged from her children because "it goes against what (her) whole heart and soul wants".
"Mummy misses you so much my heart could burst with the pain it feels," she wrote in a post to her children, that they are unlikely to have yet seen.
"Not one moment goes by where I can forget about the memories we had made.
"Not one single thing in this world could ever make me forget and it's the only thing I hold on to for now.
"Come home please."