We'll give him a second chance - Hicks children speak out

Second chance ... David Hicks's children, 14-year-old Bonnie and
12-year-old Terry, with their mother, Jodie Sparrow.

Second chance ... David Hicks's children, 14-year-old Bonnie and 12-year-old Terry, with their mother, Jodie Sparrow.
Photo: Channel Nine

Edmund Tadros
May 28, 2007

IT IS a horrible question for a child to have to answer: "Do you think your dad is a a terrorist?"

For the 12-year-old son of David Hicks, Terry Sparrow, the reply was: "I got told he went and trained with the terrorists."

His answer on national television last night parallels the conclusion of Hicks's US captors, who have returned him to Australia after convicting him not of being a terrorist, but of being a supporter of terrorism.

So what is a terrorist? Terry's naive reply: "Oh, they're people with tea towels on their head. They kill people. They're suicide bombers. That's all I know."

Last night, Terry and his sister, Bonnie, 14, went on Channel Nine's 60 Minutes with their mother, Jodie Sparrow, 34, to say they were willing to give a second chance to the father who left them 10 years ago.

As Hicks, 31, serves the remainder of his nine-month sentence in Adelaide, Terry said he was disappointed with his father. And yet he has been suspended from school for fighting to defend Hicks's honour.

Bonnie has not forgiven Hicks for leaving and does not consider him to be her father. "I call him David." Despite this, she felt he had "been in jail long enough".

She did not think he was a terrorist but said some Australians had a right to be angry with him. "Yeah, because he fought against us and decided to fight with the Taliban people," she said.

In recent days, Ms Sparrow visited Hicks in prison for about 40 minutes and passed on a message from the children that they loved him and looked forward to seeing him. He "seems pretty normal", she said.

But Ms Sparrow suggested he had no right to come back into the family's lives after he suddenly left when she broke off their relationship. She speculated that this was when Hicks converted to Islam. But like her daughter, Ms Sparrow does not believe Hicks is a terrorist. "I'm sorry, but I just can't, I can't see him meaning to hurt anybody. You know, not the Dave I knew, anyway."

Asked if Channel Nine had paid for the interview, a spokeswoman for the station said: "No comment on any issues of payment."

Ms Sparrow revealed that during his five years in prison at Guantanamo Bay, where Hicks was isolated from almost all contact, he had written to his estranged family. In one letter, he wrote: "Dear Jodie, thank you for for doing a great job of bringing them up. You've always been an excellent mother. As soon as I stop writing this I'm going to write to the children. It's going to be the hardest thing I've done my whole life. What do I do? What do I say?"

He wrote to Bonnie: "Hello my little daughter, thank you for your letter. You looked very pretty and I like your hair. I miss you Bonnie and I think about you all the time. I can't wait to hold you in my arms and give you a big hug and kiss."

However, Ms Sparrow said: "I think [Bonnie] wants to see him again but I think she's so scared of Daddy walking out and never seeing me again. I think that's her biggest fear and that's why she's got walls put up all around her."