Two of the four sisters at the centre of an international custody dispute have made an attempt to escape from their father's Italian property.
Just a day after being taken to their father's villa on the outskirts of Florence, the two older girls sprinted across the yard to the front gates when they saw media camped outside and pleaded with reporters to help them return to Australia.
The eldest girl was dragged back inside by her father, while her sister clung to the gate as her grandmother urged her to return inside.
When the father later returned he was involved in a scuffle with some members of the media contingent.
The girls tried to escape around midday local time yesterday (about 10pm AEST), about one day after arriving at the villa.
The girls' two younger sisters had flown to Italy from Brisbane a day earlier after the four were separated because the two older girls were in a highly emotional state and were removed from the flight before it left Brisbane.
The Family Court ordered the four sisters, aged between nine and 15, be deported after their mother brought them to Australia for a holiday in 2010 and never returned.
Channel Nine reporter Sophie Walsh, part of the media contingent outside the father's property, said the two girls ran towards the gates and urged reporters to help them return to Australia.
"One of the girls grabbed on to me and said 'Dad's not letting us speak to our mum, we want to speak to our mum. He's taken away our mobile phones and we just want to return to Australia'," she told The Age today.
"They ran to us and were clinging us. It was a very hard situation to be put in. We were there purely to do the story and then we became part of it.
"At the end of the day when you've got a young girl who's in tears, she's got fear in her eyes pleading with you to take her away from the situation, you can't just walk away from that.
"I just stood there. The father tried to rip her away from me. I said 'Look I'm not holding onto her, she's holding onto me.'
"The father then got heated and got quite physical ... he started pushing the cameras away."
Ms Walsh said the father appeared to injure his thumb while trying to pull the cameras from the television crews.
About an hour after the girls ran to the gate local police and social services arrived and the younger girl eventually agreed to return to the house, Ms Walsh said.
The girls' maternal grandmother today said the girls' mother was not planning to travel to Italy because she believed it would be "incredibly dangerous" for her to do so.
A member of the girls' family in Australia said last week the family was considering a a legal challenge in the Italian courts.