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Newcastle Sect Pair Face Court


TWO members of a Newcastle-based religious group were due to face a British court last night in connection with missing British teenager Bobby Kelly.

London police arrested Australians Roland and Susan Gianstefani on Wednesday, charging them with contempt of court for failing to help police to find the 16-year-old runaway.

The couple, who had been in hiding since Bobby went missing, are members of the Jesus Christians sect headed by David McKay, 55, of Mayfield.

Mr McKay said he was not surprised by news of the arrest.

`It was not a big shock, because they were due to hand themselves in over the next few days,' he said.

`Contempt of court is a serious charge. I think it carries a maximum of two years and they are prepared to stay in jail for two years.'

Bobby Kelly joined the sect after meeting Jesus Christian members handing out religious leaflets at a shopping centre in Essex last month.

Mr McKay said Bobby's grandmother had given written permission for the 16-year-old to spend time with the group.

The British hunt for the teenager began a fortnight ago, after he was made a ward by the High Court.

Solicitor Lawrence Oates, who was appointed to represent Bobby, said if it were established that the teenager was acting of free will, he would be allowed to remain with the group.

A media gagging order was overruled in the High Court on Tuesday and in a subsequent BBC radio interview, Bobby dismissed claims that the sect had brainwashed or abducted him.

He said the group comprised `normal people, except they believe in Jesus and try to commit their life to his teachings'.

`They don't burn babies and eat them or anything nasty like that,' Bobby said.

In a written statement to be submitted to the court, the Gianstefanis said Bobby had not been held against his will and had been in regular contact with his family.

The couple said they were concerned Bobby would be subjected to `exit counselling' by anti-cult `deprogrammers' if he came forward.

They said they had not seen Bobby since July 14 but made no reference to his whereabouts.

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