Child bride 'will not go into care'

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The Independent Online
A High Court judge yesterday reassured 13-year-old bride Sarah Cook that she would not be taken into care if she returned to Britain from her "marital" home in Turkey.

Sir Stephen Brown, president of the Family Division, took the step a week after making Essex-born Sarah a ward of court. He said he was anxious to ensure the schoolgirl did not think she would be separated from her parents if his order for her to return "forthwith" was obeyed.

Sir Stephen, who conducted a hearing in chambers with Sarah's father, Adrian, 42, and counsel, opened the court to the media to deliver a statement. He said: "In the light of certain reports which have been circulated, it is necessary to say that these are wardship proceedings and not care proceedings.

"Essex County Council has no intention at present to take Sarah into care and away from her parents.

"I would wish to say that wardship is not a procedure which represents any threat or application which might prejudice anybody. What is desired is to enable the court to further the welfare of Sarah and to ensure her protection."

He said he hoped the "emotional climate" surrounding the case could be cooled, but there was little chance of that in Kharamanmaras, south eastern Turkey, where Sarah's 18-year-old "husband" Musa remains in custody charged with statutory rape.

Sarah's mother, Jackie, 37, has so far failed to persuade the child to return home in the face of a groundswell of national support for her.

Yesterday, Sarah publicly kissed the Koran as a demonstration of her determination to stay in her chosen country. "I love Musa, I love his family, I love this country, I don't want to go back," she said.

She was cheered wherever she went and given gifts, including two gold bracelets. The mayor of the town has already promised the couple a villa when Musa is finally freed. He faces up to five years in jail for statutory rape.