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Emails have reportedly confirmed that top executives of 60 Minutes were aware of the plan to abduct Sally Faulkner’s children in Lebanon, up to three months before the botched attempt.
The Daily Telegraph reports there were discussions had in January 2016, between executive producer Kirsty Thomson, former executive producer Tom Malone and sacked producer Stephen Rice.
The trio had reportedly outlined a plan to grab the children and take them via boat to Cyprus.
It’s reported they reached out to Nine Network’s legal counsel after the discussion and requested a contract with Faulkner.
The contract involved the payment of ‘Child Abduction Recovery International’ (CARI), run by Adam Whittington.
During the discussions, Thomson reportedly wrote to Malone and Rice, expressing interest in taking over the abduction story, after it had been put on the back burner by Inside Story.
“Sally Faulkner has been talking to Adam Whittington for months about the possibility of snatching her four and six yo (sic) children from their father in Lebanon. Father lives in Beirut and runs a surfing business. Classic "the kids aren't coming home" after holiday,” Thomson said, according to News Corp.
Despite Inside Story backing away from the report, Thomson wanted to reach out to Faulkner and continue with the plan.
It’s reported the child snatch was planned for the final week in February 2016, however it occurred in April.
On Tuesday it was revealed that fired 60 Minutes producer Stephen Rice had hired a high-profile lawyer to fight his dismissal, following the botched child snatch saga.
It was reported the veteran journalist and Walkley Award winner had sought the help of workplace lawyer John Laxon, to challenge Nine’s decision to sack him following an internal review.
The internal review did not recommend that any staff member should be singled out for dismissal.
Former 60 Minutes boss Gerald Stone, David Hurley and Launders completed the investigation and shared their findings with Nine Entertainment’s board on Monday.
'Regrettably this has been the gravest misadventure in the program's history,' said Mr Stone said.
It was later announced that Rice would leave the company ‘effective immediately’.
The other staff involved in the story received formal warnings.
In an interview with reporter Michael Usher, Mr Stone justified Rice’s dismissal.
“If anyone was going to be picked out, it would have to be the producer of the program,” He said.
“He should take the blame when those things go wrong.”
Mr Stone said it was found that ‘inexcusable errors’ were made with the story.
The review recommended ‘management censure, in the strongest terms, those most directly involved in the events’.
It’s reported the failed story cost the Nine Network over $1 million.
It also saw the 60 Minutes crew, including Rice and reporter Tara Brown, imprisoned in Beirut for two weeks.
Staff have admitted to ‘soul searching’ since the saga and conceded that mistakes were made.