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Zahra's biological mom travels from Australia, visits memorial for first time

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Emily Dietrich at a memorial at Zahra's home in Hickory on Thursday. Emily Dietrich at a memorial at Zahra's home in Hickory on Thursday.
Zahra Baker, soon after her birth with mother Emily. (Source: Perth Now) Zahra Baker, soon after her birth with mother Emily. (Source: Perth Now)

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Written by Chris Dyches - email

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - One week after the biological mother of 10-year-old Zahra Baker said she feared her daughter was dead, she traveled from Australia to the memorial for the missing North Carolina girl.

For the first time, Emily Dietrich, along with an Australian news crew visited the memorial outside the Australian-born girl's Hickory home.  Zahra was living with her father and stepmother when she was reported missing on October 9.

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Dietrich arrived in the United States earlier this week with Aussie reporter Robert Ovadia and a news crew from Seven News.  Dietrich gave her DNA to investigators on Thursday for comparison.

Also on Thursday, less than a week after speaking out for the first time, Dietrich arrived at the Baker home and saw the memorial for her missing daughter, who she gave up just after Zahra was born 11 years ago.

"You could tell as time went on and reality sank in of coming here and having a connection with this story that in her words it would be 'a lot more real to her'," said Ovadia, a reporter for 7 News "She was getting a lot more nervous and that culminated [Thursday] when she turned up to the shrine at the house.  [That's] as about as raw a human emotion as I have ever seen.  She was gutted, it was very upsetting for her."

Dietrich spent time at the memorial crying and reading notes left behind from people supporting Zahra.

She read one note out loud from a ten year old girl.

"Zahra, I'm so sorry that your step-mother [sobs], so sorry that your step-mother hit you, whenever she made you walk up that hill. And now I wish that I could be friends with you, but my mother told me you are probably in heaven with the angels and God.  Surely God is taking great care of you. I am ten years old, too.  So sorry that you had to have bone cancer, but you are a cancer survivor.  And just to let you know, your step-mother will be in jail for a long, long time.  PS - Bless you Zahra and I will pray for you."

After reading the note, Dietrich said "ten-year-olds shouldn't have to write that" while sobbing.

Ovadia told WBTV that it was important for Dietrich to come and see the memorial and talk with neighbors about Zahra.

"She wanted some sort of connection with her daughter that she hasn't had over the years," said Ovadia. "And that meant coming here, going to the shrine and seeing the photos and letters from people who didn't know Zahra too well either. [It was] just an affinity with her daughter and the story."

Last week, Dietrich told Ovadia in an exclusive interview that she doubts she'll ever see Zahra alive again.

"I don't feel it.  Mothers just have this bond with their children and just having no hope in me, makes it hurt even more," Dietrich said. "With what they are finding and how they are saying she was treated.  The only hope I have in me now is that she is gone, so that she's not being hurt anymore."

Dietrich says she gave Zahra's father Adam Baker custody of their daughter because she was suffering post-natal depression. She says she has spent years trying to track the girl down.

"Unless you understand the story, you don't understand the pain," Dietrich told Ovadia.

In the interview, Dietrich said Adam Baker disappeared with Zahra shortly after getting custody and every time she found him, he disappeared again.  She told Ovadia that she found him over the Web in America.  Three days later, Zahra was reported missing.

"Why would it happen that I would find her and three days later this would happen?" Dietrich asked. "It's just mean."

Adam Baker, who is Zahra's father, moved to Hickory about 3 years ago to marry Elisa Baker, who he met on the Internet. Zahra went with them.

"I can't explain the anger, the hurt. He had no right to do any of it, to keep her from me," said Dietrich.

Elisa Baker is charged with obstruction of justice in the case for allegedly faking a ransom note, police say.

Dietrich clinched her teeth when asked about if Zahra called Elisa Baker 'mum.'

"I just pray to God that she had enough of me in her to never do that."

Police have found a bone during a search for the girl, but it is unclear if the bone belongs to Zahra. It is currently at the NC SBI lab for analysis.

"I don't want them to find more because it will tell the story I don't want to hear," Dietrich said through tears. "But I want them to find more so we can put it together."

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