Karen Nettleton is a 54-year-old grandmother.
She is also the mother-in-law of Australia’s most notorious Islamist militant.
Her only child, daughter Tara, married notorious terrorist Khaled Sharrouf – an Australian recruited by ISIS, whose fate is unknown following a recent drone strike on a convoy in Syria. She was 15 when she converted to Islam, married Sharrouf and became pregnant. As of early last year, the now-31-year-old lives in Islamic State-controlled Syria with her five children, who are aged between four and 14.
One of Tara’s sons, 10-year-old Abdullah, was pictured holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier last year.
Ms Nettleton says the image – which was tweeted by Sharrouf and splashed across the front page of a newspaper – was the worst thing she has ever seen.
“I just saw this picture of this little boy holding a head… and it just devastated me,” Ms Nettleon told ABC’s 7.30 program.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
She said she worries the horrific incident will badly affect the young boy.
“Surely it’s got to traumatise him. The main thing I worry about is it’s gonna follow him everywhere his whole life,” she says.
“He’s a sweet, sweet boy.”
It was reported last week that Sharrouf and fellow Islamic State fighter Mohamed Elomar were killed in an air strike. Sharrouf’s 13-year-old daughter was married to Elomar earlier this month and is reportedly pregnant with his child.
Ms Nettleton says she received this text message from her granddaughter:
“Hello Nana how are you? My husband got hit by a drone yesterday and got killed. I am really sick and I think I’ve got a fever when I found out I was happy for him to get what he wanted and to go paradise but at the same time I was devastated because I loved him so much and I knew I was never going to see him again in this life.”
While Elomar’s death has been verified, it is still unclear whether Sharrouf was travelling in the same convoy.
Watch Ms Nettleton discuss seeing her young grandson hold a severed head (post continues after video):
Now, Ms Nettleton wants the Australian Government to help get her daughter and grandchildren back home.
She says she had ongoing discussions with the Australian Federal Police last year, but was eventually told the Government could not do anything to help.
“I was talking to one of the agencies and I was told that they wouldn’t be able to help us,” she told 7.30.
“I was devastated, because who else do you go to, to get help to get your children out of a place like that? I certainly can’t go there and get them.”
She said, if returned to Australia, her daughter should not face criminal charges because “she hasn’t done anything wrong”.
Ms Nettleton says some days she is angry at her daughter, “but I love her and I just want her home”.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Ms Nettleton should not be talking to the media about the issue, but the grandmother of five says she already tried going to the Government directly to no avail.
An AFP spokesperson told the ABC Australians were regularly warned not to travel to Syria.
“The Government will work closely with relevant state or territory governments who are responsible for the welfare and safety of children,” the spokesperson said.
Let’s hope it doesn’t become a case of too little, too late.
Do you think the Government should help bring these Australians home?
For more, try these articles?