Adventure turns to terror for policemen

Families of seized British officers express their disbelief at Milosevic's timely accusations of terrorism
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The Independent Online

For Adrian Pragnell and John Yore, the stint at the police training school in Kosovo was the chance of an adventure away from the daily routine of working in the shires. Yesterday, caught in the web of Balkan realpolitik, they were beginning to find out just how dangerous that adventure had turned out to be.

For Adrian Pragnell and John Yore, the stint at the police training school in Kosovo was the chance of an adventure away from the daily routine of working in the shires. Yesterday, caught in the web of Balkan realpolitik, they were beginning to find out just how dangerous that adventure had turned out to be.

Back home, the families and colleagues of the two police officers expressed their disbelief at the charges of terrorism being levelled by the Yugoslav authorities. But, at the same time, there was a sense of foreboding.

There is little in the backgrounds of the two men to imply links with either British intelligence or special forces. Constable Yore, 31, served in the army for two years, with the Grenadier Guards, but his job was as a traffic policeman, based at Bottisham station near Cambridge. Detective Sergeant Pragnell, 41, a keen rugby player, was a founder of the Cops for Kids charity in Kosovo which raised money for orphans with sports activities and social events. He had been a uniform officer before transferring to general CID duties four years ago. He was based at Waterlooville, Hampshire.

Both men had been in Kosovo for more than a year, helping to train the newly formed police force of the former Yugoslav province at Vucitrn, north of Pristina. They had both applied for the posts when they were advertised in police magazines last autumn.

Foreign Office and police sources insist neither officers were armed when apprehended by the Yugoslav military in Montenegro a week ago. But it appeared that, along with other Western nationals working in post-war Kosovo, they did not have visas for the country.

Yesterday, Mr Yore's mother, Carolyn Herrod, a former police officer, spoke about the " absurdity" of the allegations. Speaking at the family home near Ely, in Cambridgeshire, she said: "Anyone who knows John will understand how absurd it is to believe he was involved in any espionage activity.

"He is traffic officer serving in Cambridge and was there to help train the Kosovar police. He is a very experienced policeman and I know that he will be able to cope with the situation, dangerous though it is.

"After a year out there he understood the politics and as a policeman he would have had a nose for staying out of trouble - he certainly would not have gone looking for trouble or put himself intentionally in danger.

"He is 6ft4and weighs 18 stone so he does stand out a bit - hardly the kind who would make a good spy by blending into the background."

PC Yore, who is an only child, was due home in four weeks' time after a 13-month posting to Kosovo. "We knew the risks and so did he but we certainly didn't try to talk him put of going," Mrs Herrod said.

"But conditions there are tough - last winter he had no running water or electricity and the temperatures were minus 20 - now they are up in the 90s."

Mr Yore's girlfriend, Mel Symondson, 26, said: "It has been a real shock to see what is happening as he was coming home very soon and we are all just waiting for news."

Philip Pragnell, the officer's brother, said at his home in Dereham, Norfolk, said: "Adrian is a good copper - he is very experienced and level-headed. He will be able to take care of himself even in this difficult situation. He told us the last time he was back in Britain that he was going to cross the border - a lot of people stationed in Kosovo use that route to go for a holiday.

"He was there simply as a tourist - it is absurd to suggest that he was on some kind of spying mission."

DS Pragnell's girlfriend, Detective Constable Wendy Priston - a colleague in the Hampshire force - said: "He is just doing a police job which he thoroughly enjoys. Nothing more than that."

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