Message to mum: it’s me

Reunited: Jacqueline Gillespie and her stolen daughter Shahirah, 20, were reunited this week after 14 years.

Shannon McRae
08apr06

JACQUELINE Pascarl secretly exchanged emails and phone calls with daughter Shahirah for three years before their emotional reunion this week.

An elated Ms Pascarl couldn’t contain her joy yesterday as she spoke of seeing 20-year-old Shahirah for the first time in 14 years.

“Oh, she is stunning. She is amazing,” she said as they held each other.

Shahirah tracked down her mother via the internet a decade after her father grabbed her and her brother from a Melbourne hotel and spirited them to Malaysia.

She used a website for an overseas aid charity her mum worked for.

Ms Pascarl, who was known as Gillespie when her children were taken, initially thought it was a cruel hoax.

Shahirah yesterday revealed she had to pass a quiz to prove her identity to an intermediary before being put in touch with her mother.

“I got an email back from her good friend, who was acting like a filter,” Shahirah said.

“So they gave me a pop quiz of about 10 questions – and only things I would know, or my brother would know. I got all of them right.”

The pair immediately began making up for the lost years.

“We had a very private relationship for about three years,” Ms Pascarl said yesterday.

Her son Iddin, now 23, has also been in secret contact with his mother, and is expected to visit her soon.

“I’ve had contact with Iddin less frequently over the last three years. It was very secret and private,” Ms Pascarl said.

The natural bond between mother and daughter helped Ms Pascarl and Shahirah make up for lost time after their first online meeting.

Shahirah even played a support role during the birth of her half-brother, despite being in another country.

“She was in the delivery room with us on the phone when he was born . . . so she shared that, and we kept that private,” Ms Pascarl said.

Shahirah said she was looking forward to spending Easter with her mother and getting some cooking lessons.

“We’re trying to make up for the things we didn’t get to do. You know, girly stuff,” Shahirah said.

She has spent most of the past week bunkered down in Ms Pascarl’s Hawthorn home after arriving last Saturday.

But a trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens with her new brother and sister brought back memories.

“I got to see my little sister’s birthday party, and we went to have a picnic in the Botanic Gardens like we always did,” Shahirah said.

Ms Pascarl was married to journalist Iain Gillespie for 10 years. When the marriage ended, she had a daughter to a Sydney businessman.

She is now married to Hawthorn software manager Bill Crocaris. They have a three-year-old son.

Ms Pascarl yesterday revealed her fear that Shahirah and Iddin might not bond with her after the years apart.

“I was terrified I would not be up to her expectations when she arrived, and I’ll go through that again when Iddin arrives,” she said.

“You miss all the nuances and them growing up with their personalities . . . everything from smelly runners to basketball games, first loves or exams. We had none of that together.”

Her anxiety passed after a few minutes face to face with Shahirah, whom she described as “everything you could hope for in a daughter”.

Jacqueline Pascarl married Prince Raja Bahrin in 1980 and their two children were born in Malaysia. She returned with the children after the prince took a second wife under Islamic law, but in 1992 he smuggled them out of Melbourne during an access visit.

Shahirah now plans to divide her time between Australia and Malaysia.

“I’ve got all these lovely people around me in both countries, and I’d miss all of them, so I really don’t want to have to make a choice,” she said.

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