British couple avoid extradition to Kenya

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A BRITISH woman who jumped bail after being held in squalor in a Kenyan prison accused of trying to steal goods from the United Nations won a court battle against extradition yesterday.

Kerry Page was due to stand trial in Kenya. She fled to Britain on the eve of her trial in 1997, having been accused of masterminding a plot in 1995 to steal forklift trucks, containers and other property from the UN during the pull-out of peacekeeping forces from Somalia.

Ms Page, 30, was kept in a dark Kenyan prison cell measuring 15ft square with 47 other women. She and her husband, Arran Morris, 33, who also faced extradition accused of aiding and abetting his wife, faced a minimum seven-year jail term if convicted.

Ms Page, from Bradford, was arrested in 1997 and was charged with theft and handling stolen goods. She was remanded in custody at the Langatta women's prison in Nairobi. After a week she was granted bail but escaped to England.

Ms Page, who married last summer, gave herself up to police in London before Christmas and the Kenyan authorities requested her extradition .

A stipendiary magistrate, Christopher Pratt, announced yesterday that he would not commit either of the couple for extradition. Mr Pratt said the anarchic situation in Somalia meant that it could not be proved the goods had been stolen.

Speaking outside Bow Street magistrates' court in central London after the hearing, Ms Page said: "Words cannot express the sheer relief that this decision has brought to Arran and I and our families."

She said earlier: "What I went through during my week in custody was so bad it could not have been dreamed up for a film."

Ms Page and Mr Morris worked for Morris Catering, supplying American- led UN forces from 1993. The UN pulled out from Somalia, with 18 American troops killed. Ms Page organised the shipment of the allegedly stolen goods from Somalia to the Kenyan port of Mombassa.

UN investigators said they identified 28 UN items on ships belonging to Morris Catering in May 1995.

Ms Page said the equipment she was accused of handling was "virtually scrap metal" and worth no more than pounds 8,000.