Law finally catches up with `most wanted' pensioners

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It was the grannies' last stand. After nearly three years on the run the desperadoes have been tracked down to their hideout in a Suffolk village.

The lengthy hunt for the sisters, Winifred Bristow, 76, and Joan Payne, 74, has earnt them the title of "Britain's most wanted pensioners". The police search has stretched to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Avon, Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire, although the only interest in locating them is to find their travelling companion, Angela Dodge, 51, whom the police want to interview about alleged fraud and deception.

But all the sisters would reveal yesterday through their letter box to a posse of reporters outside was muffled shouts of "We've nothing to say".

They were not much more helpful to the law. The policemen heading the inquiry admitted: "The old ladies aren't being particularly co-operative."

The hunt started in May 1992 when the sisters disappeared from their home of 50 years in East Grinstead, West Sussex, telling relatives they were taking a three-day holiday. Mrs Dodge, travelling with the two old ladies, has since allegedly left a trail of forged cheques and unpaid hotel bills across Britain and Ireland.

The two grandmothers were found on Monday in a rented holiday cottage in the village of Hessett, near Bury St Edmunds, after a tip-off from a villager. They were questioned by detectives but they remained at the two-bedroom cottage yesterday.

Mrs Dodge was not at the house when police arrived. Detective Constable Barry Woodley of Hampshire police said she had "dumped" the sisters and gone off with her 11-year-old daughter, Kate.

He said: "The old ladies aren't being particularly co-operative, but they said she got a bus to Cambridge last Thursday. I think things were getting a bit too hot for her and money was getting short, so she decided to go it alone. She's even left the carbehind.

"We have no plans to charge the elderly ladies. The rent on the bungalow is paid up until the weekend so they aren't homeless, although they've only got a few quid left." He said he had been in contact with some relatives, but none was particularly keen to take the pensioners in.

The owners of the cottage, Chris Glass and his wife, Nicola, said the pensioners told them that they needed it for a recuperative break as one of them had recently had a mastectomy operation. They rented it on Wednesday for £150 after seeing it advertised in a tourist brochure, and were expected to stay until Saturday morning.

Mrs Glass said: "They just seemed like a nice couple of old ladies. We've never had this much attention before. I am looking forward to the holiday season now. We still have some bookings left and this might fill the cottage up."