My hellish journey across Europe, by kidnapped mother

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The Independent Online
The bizarre three-day ordeal of Hertfordshire secretary Joanne Norris ended yesterday when a Turkish court released both her and the estranged Turkish husband who had kidnapped her and smuggled her across the breadth of Europe.

"I'm not too bad now. My husband did not hurt me. I have absolutely no idea why he did it, but maybe his motive was to get the family back together again. The court released us both after I said I would not be pressing charges," said Ms Norris, 30.

"I even asked him to drive me to the airport so I could go home. He agreed, but I think the police may supervise that," she added, speaking by telephone from a courtroom in the town of Edirne, close to the Turkish border with Bulgaria.

Ms Norris said she was alone when she was seized from her home at Knebworth in Hertfordshire on Friday night. She said her boyfriend was tied up when he stumbled in on the kidnap. She was then put in the back of a caravan or caravanette and smuggled through the Channel Tunnel on the Shuttle.

"I couldn't be seen or draw attention to myself. They had hidden me under a coat," Ms Norris said.

She was met on arrival in France by her husband and her eight- year-old son, who lives in Turkey in the legal custody of his father. Ms Norris said she had left her husband in 1994 after eight years of living together in the Turkish resort town of Kemer.

A friend of her husband's was also with them as they then drove non-stop across Europe towards Turkey. Turkish police said her husband was using her old Turkish passport to get her through international frontiers. "Three times I thought about trying to escape, but it was the middle of the night, I had no money and no passport. What was I supposed to do?" Ms Norris said.

Finally they arrived at the Turkish border post with Bulgaria on Sunday afternoon. Turkish police there had been tipped off about the kidnap by a fax from Interpol. They arrested the group and sent them to Edirne for questioning. "The Turkish police were basically sympathetic, but like lots of people in Turkey, they could not understand why I would not get back together with my husband and son. They are very much family orientated here," Ms Norris said. She said that after the court released them her first priority would be to find a seat on a plane back to London, even though that meant leaving her son behind.

"Of course I have hard feelings about all this," Ms Norris said. Turkish law usually awards custody of children to the father, and Ms Norris said that one day she might sue for custody of the child in the Turkish courts.

t Two men appeared in court yesterday charged with kidnapping Ms Norris from her home. Derek Neale, 34, of Dews Green, Vange, Basildon, Essex, and Derek Lazell, 43, of London Road, Basildon, Essex, are jointly charged with the kidnap and unlawful imprisonment. Neale and Lazell, both ex-servicemen, only spoke once to confirm their names during the five-minute appearance at Stevenage magistrates' court.

Both were remanded in custody for a week, to appear at the same court on 11 November. There was no application for bail. Hertfordshire police said that a third man, aged 27, had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping.