Vietnamese beauty queen 'kidnapped'

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The Independent Online

She seemed to have it all. The crown as her nation's beauty queen. A scholarship to study at a British university. Intelligence and ambition.

Yet things have gone wrong for Pham Thi Mai Phuong, 18, otherwise known as Miss Vietnam 2002. A week ago she disappeared from a port city in the north of the country. Now her relatives are saying that that she has been kidnapped in an attempt to stop her travelling to England.

Reports from Hanoi yesterday said witnesses told Vietnamese police the beauty queen had been pushed into a van by several young men as she left an English class in Haiphong, her hometown.

Her mother, Trieu Kim Oanh, said that her daughter's boyfriend, a policeman and the son of Haiphong's police chief, was to blame. Her mother said he repeatedly stated that he did not want his girlfriend to move to the UK.

She said that when she reported her daughter's disappearance, her boyfriend's father, Nguyen Binh Doan, told her that she was "with friends". A police official said yesterday that the authorities were still investigating. He appeared to raise doubts over whether she had been kidnapped, saying the police had "received confusing information". The girl's mother also said that her daughter had called home several times to reassure her family that she was alright, but was unable to tell them where she was.

Luton University confirmed yesterday that she had won a full scholarship to study business administration and was due to start next month.

Tim Boatswain, the university's pro-vice chancellor, told The Independent: "It's an awful story. I was out in Haiphong earlier this year doing a presentation, and she and her father attended it.

"She had been to the UK as Miss Vietnam and I interviewed her and was very impressed - she is very bright. We offered her a place on the international foundation course for business."