UK cult members sentenced over missing teenager

July 27, 2000

LONDON, July 27, 2000 (Reuters) - Two members of a religious sect arrested in connection with the disappearance of teenager Bobby Kelly, who was found earlier on Thursday, have been given suspended sentences at the High Court.

Sixteen-year-old Kelly, from Romford in Essex, vanished a month ago to join a sect known as the Jesus Christians but was located on Thursday morning in Surrey by police.

Roland and Susan Gidmstefani, both members of the cult, were arrested on Tuesday but had initially refused to reveal where Kelly was.

"He was found in a tent concealed in a large woodland area adjacent to the Basingstoke Canal Visitors' Centre," a police spokeswoman said.

Mr Justice Sumner of the High Court imposed six-week suspended prison sentences on the Gidmstefanis, who met Kelly in Romford the day he disappeared. He later went back to join them.

In suspending the sentences, the judge considered a personal plea by Kelly to be lenient with them. Justice Sumner said he also took into account the fact they had eventually provided information about Kelly and had apologized to the court.

The judge said Kelly, who did not appear in court, needed to be given "space and time to reflect on what had happened over the past four weeks."

"He needs to think carefully about what he wants in the future," he added.

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