`Distressed' Pinochet moves out of hospital

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GENERAL AUGUSTO Pinochet moved into a rented property on one of Britain's most exclusive private estates last night after being told to leave a hospital in London.

Before he left, the former Chilean dictator said through his lawyers that he was distressed at suggestions that he had overstayed his welcome at Grovelands Priory Hospital in Southgate, north London.

His solicitor, Michael Caplan, said: "Senator Pinochet and his family are distressed by reports concerning the Senator's stay at Grovelands Priory Hospital ... The Senator has always been anxious to move from the hospital as soon as possible and suggestions that he has been reluctant to do so are wholly unfounded."

The hospital said it had been a full two weeks since it was stated in court that General Pinochet was fit to attend his next bail hearing and it was "inappropriate" for him to remain.

One member of staff said before his departure: "Frankly we can't wait for him to go. There is no longer any reason for General Pinochet to stay, and it will be much better for our other residents if he does go."

General Pinochet was heckled by a handful of protesters as he left the hospital just before 7 o'clock last night. He was accompanied by a police doctor.

Several motorcycle riders from television stations attempted to follow the motorcade to find out where the general would be staying, but were prevented from doing so by police.

Friends of the 83-year-old general found a rented property for him on the Wentworth Estate at Virginia Water, Surrey, where fellow residents include the comedians Bruce Forsyth and Russ Abbot.

It is understood that among General Pinochet's backers is Carlos Carceres, president of the Chilean subsidiary of BAT, the international tobacco corporation. He has also received help from Nico Rogerson, former partner in Dewe Rogerson, a City public relations firm, and Lord Bell, former PR adviser to the Tories and a long-time associate of Baroness Thatcher.

The manoeuvring over the legal fate of General Pinochet continued yesterday with the United States administration urging the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to treat Chile's demands for the senator's return with "significant respect".

But James Rubin, State Department spokesman, denied the Clinton administration was pushing Britain into making a decision in favour of the general's release.

At the same time the department said it was releasing confidential documents relating to human rights abuses under General Pinochet .

Answering reporters' questions in Washington, the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said the citizens of Chile were "wrestling with a very difficult problem of how to balance the need of justice with the requirements of reconciliation".

Like having Hitler for a neighbour, page 3