The founder of a religious cult has denied that a missing 16-year-old was to be smuggled abroad by his followers.
Teenager Bobby Kelly has been made a ward of court by the High Court in a desperate bid to find him after he left home just hours after meeting members of the Jesus Christians group.
Bobby, who lives with his grandmother, Ruth Kelly, in Essex, was planning to take a business studies course at college after completing his GCSEs.
Jesus Christians group founder David Mackay said: "I don't have him. We don't have him. We definitely won't take him out of Britain.
"But we believe in his freedom as a 16-year-old to make a decision where he is going to go. The only way they are going to take him is to lock him up and I don't think he has done anything to deserve being locked up.
"We are trying to recognise his rights. We are not the ones who are having to force him to go some place," he told the BBC.
Earlier this week Mrs Kelly, who is Bobby's legal guardian, told a court that her grandson met a member of The Jesus Christians while they were shopping in Romford after he stopped to talk to a man handing out leaflets. The same afternoon, he packed some of his belongings and told his grandmother he was "going with them".
Ports and airports have been put on alert but there are fears he may already have left England.
Mrs Kelly told the BBC: "What I would say to him is 'We love you and we want you to come home'."
She added that she had spoken on the phone to Bobby, but that there always appeared to be someone - who she knows as Sue - in the background, guiding him in his responses to her.
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