Cult 'conspiracy' women ask for trial in Britain: CPS urged to take on case to beat extradition. Steve Boggan reports

BRITISH prosecutors are to be asked to try two English women wanted for conspiracy to murder a US attorney in Oregon.

Lawyers for Susan Hagan and Sally Croft will take the rare step of asking the Crown Prosecution Service to take up the case against the women, in a final attempt to avoid their extradition to America, where they believe a fair trial is impossible.

Ms Croft, 44, an accountant, and Ms Hagan, 47, an aromatherapist, were members of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh sect in Antelope, Oregon, in the mid-1980s when a number of members allegedly plotted to kill Charles Turner, who was investigating the sect.

Last Friday, they avoided extradition until 6 June when Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, rescinded an order that would have led to them being handed over to US marshals within eight hours. A growing number of cross-party peers who have begun to lobby on their behalf feel that their only chance of a fair trial would be if it were in England.

Andrew McCooey, their solicitor, will make an application to the CPS this week under Section 4 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861, which provides for British citizens wanted abroad for incitement or conspiracy to murder to be tried in England.

He said: 'The women have never been afraid of a trial because they are innocent. But trial by media has already begun in America and it would be impossible to find an unbiased jury.' If found guilty before an Oregon judge, they could each be jailed for 20 years.

The sect's unpopularity in the state intensified after several members were convicted of fraud, wire-tapping and poisoning diners in a restaurant. Only one admitted conspiracy relating to Mr Turner, but as part of plea bargains, others implicated Ms Hagan and Ms Croft five years after they left America for Britain.

Mr Turner, now a part- time judge, was never harmed. But last month, two days before the British women were to have been extradited, he said in a television interview in Portland that he had had a premonition that members of the sect would kill him. He said he slept with a shotgun under his bed because he was so afraid. Mr Turner did not name Ms Hagan or Ms Croft, but the makers of the programme admitted it was timed to coincide with their return to Oregon. One journalist said the interview was recorded about six months ago.

Colleen Scissors, the federal public defender for Oregon, is examining a recording of the interview and considering the implications for a fair trial. In Britain, no prejudicial reporting of a person's case is allowed between charging and trial, but there are no such restrictions in the US.

Ms Croft said: 'I have nothing to fear from a trial because we are innocent and the evidence against us is so obviously spurious, having been gained as part of plea bargains. But our best chance of a fair trial would be over here, where the public has not had its opinions coloured by the media.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test