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Patty Hearst gang member arrested

A FORMER member of the guerrilla group that kidnapped and co- opted the newspaper heiress Patty Hearst more than 25 years ago was arrested in Minnesota yesterday, where she had been living a peaceful life under an assumed name.

Kathleen Soliah was one of just two former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army to have eluded the authorities over the years. While her comrades were either shot dead by the police or arrested and sent to prison, she made a new life for herself as a doctor's wife and mother of three children in St Paul, just outside Minneapolis.

Since the charges against her were relatively minor - notably, being part of an unsuccessful conspiracy to blow up police cars in Los Angeles - it was long assumed that the police had stopped looking for her. But her case suddenly returned to the national spotlight last month, as pictures of the woman and her ex-boyfriend James Kilgore appeared on the country's top crime-busting television programme, America's Most Wanted, with the promise of a $20,000 (pounds 12,500) reward for anyone able to supply information.

Surviving former SLA members, most of whom have now served their prison sentences, suspect the police and Federal Bureau of Investigation are interested in Ms Soliah not so much to prosecute her on the outstanding charges as to lean on her for testimony in another, more serious SLA crime that has never come to justice.

Federal prosecutors have tried and failed repeatedly to obtain an indictment for the murder of an old woman gunned down during an SLA bank robbery in Carmichael, outside Sacramento, in 1975. Patty Hearst, who was still with the SLA at that time, has named her comrade-in-arms, Emily Harris, as the woman who pulled the trigger, but her evidence is considered unreliable on its own. Nobody else has co-operated with the authorities on the case.