'SA is my home' – UK fugitive wanted on paedophilia charges

2017-11-16 18:22
UK child sex fugitive Lee Tucker. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

UK child sex fugitive Lee Tucker. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – A UK fugitive wanted in his home country said he would fight to stay in South Africa because this is his home.

Lee Tucker, 53, took to the stand in a bail application after appealing the ruling of the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Friday, that he is eligible for extradition.

The commercial helicopter pilot fled the UK in 2000, days before being convicted of 42 paedophilia-related charges along with a co-accused.

Tucker, who now lives in Green Point, Cape Town, said his choice to skip the country was made on the "spur of the moment".

"It was a panicked decision made on a Friday evening. The next morning I was gone," he testified.

After being found guilty in absentia, his co-accused launched an appeal. The conviction was overturned on a technicality and a retrial was ordered, again resulting in his co-accused's conviction. The man died behind bars while serving his sentence.

Came to SA for Constitution's protection

Tucker, from Swansea in Wales, had already fled the country and is still due before the court.

He said he had hoped to clear his name, but that his home country had "allowed miscarriages of justice".

He said "a great number of people" were convicted on accusations and not evidence.

Tucker confirmed he had a South African life partner and that they had a permanent spousal relationship contract.

The man, along with three friends, was in court to support him. Tucker smiled at them in greeting, and one woman rubbed his back and gave him a quick shoulder massage before he took the stand.

He decided to come to South Africa because the country's Constitution protected its citizens from discrimination on the grounds of one's sexual orientation, he said.

Tucker said he did not have free access to his medication at Pollsmoor prison, pointing out that this results in his immune system declining.

He lamented that the correctional centre was wet, cold, overcrowded and infested with lice and fleas, adding that "the mental health issues are another story".

'No desire' to go back home

He had been living in South Africa for 16 years before his arrest.

Police and members of the South African Civil Aviation Authority had started asking questions about him at his workplace in October 2015, half a year before he was taken into custody.

"It was fairly clear that something was going to happen. I was surprised it took them six months before they came to arrest me."

He could have sold his house and fled the country but it "never occurred" to him, he said.

"This is my home," he told Magistrate Vusi Mhlanga, insisting he had "no desire to see that place (the UK) again".

He said while he had a desire to clear his name, it had been so smeared that even if he were to be acquitted, the public would never view him as innocent.

Should he be released on bail, he would comply with its conditions, Tucker testified.

"This (extradition) is something I wish to fight to the highest level," he said.

The matter was postponed to November 27 for cross-examination.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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