Ms Nettleton’s grandchildren were smuggled into an IS-controlled region of Syria by their father, convicted Australian terrorist Khaled Sharrouf.
She had travelled to Turkey in an attempt to rescue them, but on the day she arrived a Sydney newspaper ran a front page article revealing her intent.
That article was the beginning of a media whirlwind which ended her long-held plan.
Intense media attention scared off people who may have helped Ms Nettleton, and earlier this week she was advised that staying in Turkey would only increase the risk to her and her grandchildren.
So she decided to go home without her family.
“It’s horrible. I envisioned them taking up a whole row of seats, and Hamze running up and down the aisle. The baby crying. And now it will just be me,” Karen told 7.30 as she prepared to leave the Turkish capital Ankara.
The children are: Zaynab, 14; Hoda, 13; Abdullah, 11; Zarqawi, 10; Hamze, 5; and Zaynab’s four-month-old baby Aiyesha.
On Thursday Ms Nettleton arrived back in Sydney, distraught by the failure, but still determined to one day see her grandchildren brought home to safety.
“I’m coming back, I’m not going to leave them here … it might take three, four, five attempts. Don’t underestimate the determination of this nanna,” she said before she departed.
Ms Nettleton was questioned by officers from the Australian Border Force’s Counter Terrorism Unit after arriving in Sydney on a flight from Abu Dhabi.
She was released after an hour of questioning.