Four children at the centre of a tug-of-love fight must leave the UK and return to their mother in Australia, a family court judge has ruled.

All four wanted to stay with their father in England. The youngest, a nine-year-old boy, said he missed the "spiders and the snakes" in Australia but preferred living in Britain.

Nevertheless, Judge Clifford Bellamy said the youngsters were habitually resident in Australia and had been wrongfully retained in England by their wealthy father - a financial consultant - following a marriage breakdown.

He concluded that the children - a girl and three boys aged between nine and 13 - had been living in a "bubble of respite" and said their father had created a "climate based on negativity towards their mother".

The judge, who sits in Leicester, announced his decision in a written ruling following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court.

He did not identify the family.

But he said the couple were both 38 and English. He said the children had been born in England and the family moved to live in Australia eight years ago.

The man left after having an affair and returned to England, while the woman and the children stayed in Australia. The children visited their father in England for a two-month holiday late last year and had not been returned.

Judge Bellamy said the woman had then taken legal action and asked for the children's "summary return" to Australia.

"Although I am satisfied that the children are of an age and maturity at which the court should take account of their views, I am not satisfied that their wishes, feelings and preferences amount to objections to returning to live in their country of habitual residence," said Judge Bellamy. "There must be an order for the summary return of the children to Australia."

Barrister Jacqueline Renton, who represented the children's mother, had argued that the youngsters had been living in a "bubble of respite" with their father.

"I accept that submission," said the judge.

"As a result of living in that bubble of respite there is a degree of artificiality about the way in which the children have arrived at their views.

"Their views have been coloured not by unhappy memories of living in Australia (either as a country or as a result of the care provided for them there by their mother) but by their comfortable existence living with their father and, as I find, by the climate he has created which is a climate based on negativity towards the mother and the subtle use of his wealth."