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Boy Camped With Cult As Hunt Went On


Teenager found: Group of three 'holidaymakers' kept low profile on busy site as searching police closed in

Two weeks ago a man strolled into the reception centre of a busy campsite near Farnborough in Hampshire and booked a two night stay, signing himself into the visitors' book as Reinhard Zeuner from Erlangen in Germany.

That day, Friday July 14, Bobby Kelly's face was on the front of the Express newspaper under the headline "Cult kidnap boy aged 16." He was in other newspapers too, and the cult members with him read the reports with alarm.

Their fear was that Bobby would be "deprogrammed" - forcibly made to give up the religious beliefs he had acquired since he left his grandmother's home in Romford to travel with them a month earlier.

So Zeuner and another cult member, Andrew Eagles, took Bobby to the campsite, where they kept a low profile, renewing their stay every few days.

Vanessa Sands, a hostel warden from Bristol who camped alongside, said: "To me they didn't look like lads who'd gone away camping together. They weren't like normal lads, they weren't drinking or having a laugh. They'd just sit hunched over their Primus stove, looking around, being quiet and serious."

Bobby was accompanied to a phone box where he recorded an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme. In this interview, barred from broadcast for 10 days after his family obtained an injunction, the boy admitted missing his family but denied he was being held against his will.

In the campsite at Mytchett, on the Surrey-Hampshire border, they maintained a facade of normal holidaymaking, with Zeuner enquiring about local attractions and expressing an interest in the nearby Royal Army Medical Corps museum.

But the search for the boy was intensifying, with an appeal by a high court judge, Mr Justice Munby, for Bobby to come forward and for the public to help with any information on his whereabouts.

On Tuesday, the day of the judge's appeal, Detective Constable Shaun Reardon of the Metropolitan police kidnap and special investigations unit rang the campsite and asked if a Mr Zeuner had booked in.

Visitors' services manager Susie Porter took the call. "You've just missed him," she said. Five hours earlier the group had packed up their two domed tents and headed into the woods behind the field.

Here, in a clearing in the woods at Ash Ranges, Bobby was found and the two men were arrested by plainclothes detectives at 10.30am yesterday.

On the Jesus Christians' website, the group declared that "we recognised something like this was almost inevitable".

The website reiterates their fear of "deprogramming". It states: "We regard Bobby Kelly as an adolescent... not fully adult, not fully child... 16-year-old children all over Britain do things that their parents and guardians do not agree with, but the police are not called in, a nationwide manhunt is not mounted... and certainly the whole country is not banned from hearing their side."

Founded by David McKay in 1981 and at one time - maybe still - consisting of no more than his family, friends and dropouts picked up on the group's travels, the Jesus Christians preach a fundamentalist version of Christianity, insisting that salvation can be obtained only by reverting to the precepts of the Bible.

The insistence on returning to a wandering lifestyle, not dependent on money, has not prevented the group carrying out a series of stunts with a shrewd eye to publicity, such as superglueing Australian dollar bills to pavements to illustrate the illusory nature of cash and dressing up as babies outside more orthodox religious gatherings to demonstrate the need to be childlike to accept God's message.


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