HELL perhaps has no fury like the “child recovery” expert left languishing in a Lebanese jail while the Australian TV crew got out and headed home.
The 60 Minutes Beirut child snatch scandal has taken a new twist, with rival Channel 7 current affairs show Sunday Night confirming Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) head Adam Whittington will tell his story to Mike Willesee this Sunday.
And Seven is adamant Whittington didn’t get paid a cent for it.
When released after more than 100 days behind bars, Whittington vowed he would return to Australia to tell the “real story”, posting on CARI’s Facebook page: “The world, like I was, will be shocked when you hear the truth.”
Sunday Night dismissed reports it paid Whittington up to $1 million to talk.
“Sunday Night made no payment to Mr Whittington, his family or any other party for the interview. The fact that he wasn’t paid will be disclosed in the program,” Seven said in a statement.
The promotional trailer for the story bills the it as “the bungled Beirut child snatch … you’ve only heard one side of the story”, overlaid with shots of 60 Minutes’ Tara Brown.
Whittington says: “The whole story’s been a lie” as the voiceover goes on to say Whittington “left to rot in a Beirut prison” will “tell you the full truth on the Sally Faulkner recovery operation … the explosive facts they didn’t want the world to know”.
Journalist Mike Willesee asks Whittington: “How much of it was your fault?”
He replies: “They just want to keep me quiet … honestly they don’t want the truth to come out”.
News Sunday Night had secured Whittington emerged after he was spotted with a film crew on the Gold Coast with his family: wife Karin, his two sons, and his mother Georgina, who lives on the Gold Coast.
The former Australian soldier, who now lives in Sweden, was paid by Nine to plan and carry out the botched child snatch.
He was arrested alongside Faulkner and four 60 Minutes crew — reporter Tara Brown, senior producer Stephen Rice, sound recordist David Ballment and cameraman Ben Williamson — in early April when the attempt to recover Faulkner’s children in a Lebanese street came unstuck. The whole group was jailed.
Channel Nine secured a deal worth $500,000 with the children’s father, Ali Elamine, to drop charges of kidnapping against Ms Faulkner and the 60 Minutes team and they were released after almost two weeks in a Beirut prison.
Whittington and his team were left in jail. He was released in July on $26,000 bail but still faces charges and possible jail time.
The story is perhaps more personal for the rival networks, with the head of Sunday Night, executive producer Hamish Thomson, a former 60 Minutes boss.
Thomson joined Seven earlier his year from Nine, where he had headed up the now defunct Inside Story, which was reportedly initially offered the Lebanon story before 60 Minutes went ahead with it.
Whittington still faces charges and possible jail time.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for sacked 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice — the only staffer to lose his job over the scandal — confirmed to The Australian that Rice and the network had reached a settlement on his departure from Nine on “mutually agreed terms”.