Mother who ran away with boy of 14 in US jail on 'lewd' assault charges

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The Independent Online
A woman who vanished with her son's 14-year- old friend was in custody last night facing up to 15 years in jail after being found with the boy in the United States.

American police said Tracey Whalin, 33, had been charged with a number of offences including carrying out a lewd or indecent assault on a child.

She appeared in court in handcuffs and manacled at the ankles while the boy was being cared for by social workers. The mother-of-three was told she would be granted bail only if she could pay pounds 110,000, but she was unable to raise the money and was taken to the women's section of Monroe County Detention Centre in Plantation Key, southern Florida.

Mrs Whalin disappeared from her home in Bilborough, Nottingham, 11 days ago as did Sean Kinsella, her son Ross's closest friend. Fears grew after Sean, a promising footballer, was issued with a passport in his own name in Peterborough at 4pm the same day.The pair flew from Manchester to Orlando, Florida, the following day and were discovered by detectives in the Florida Keys area yesterday.

A Nottinghamshire police spokesman said Sean was in what Americans call protective juvenile custody and would return to the UK as soon as possible. The Crown Prosecution Service was discussing the case with the prosecutor in Florida.

The next hearing will be in about three weeks when Mrs Whalin will plead to the charges put to her formally, officials said. If she raises the bail money she could be freed ahead of the hearing.

Deputy Sheriff Becky Harrin, of Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said the FBI traced the couple to the flats after the boy made a phone call to England.

The couple had been staying at the Ocean Point Condominiums complex, an 80-acre site with 240 holiday apartments. Manager Donna Bible said: "So far as we aware they were well-behaved and did not cause any problems. We certainly had no complaints during their time here."

Anita Bock, a spokeswoman for the Florida Child and Family Services Department, said Sean was physically fine but might need counselling. "He's a bit depressed. He has obviously been through a difficult time and the arrest of this woman has been traumatic for him. He is still a child and this sort of thing should not happen to a child."

Detective Inspector Ian Waterfield, who has led the hunt in Britain, was visiting both Mrs Whalin's husband, David, and Sean's widowed mother, Beryl, to discuss what would happen next.

Sean's uncle, Ian Anderson, said: "Obviously the whole family is very happy to learn that Sean has been found safe and well. All we want now is for him to come back home as soon as possible and try and get things back to normal."

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