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Last Friday, they avoided extradition until 6 June when Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, rescinded an order that would have led to them being handed over to US marshals within eight hours.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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot