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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 13:01 GMT

The cost of keeping Pinochet

Gen Pinochet spends a great deal of his time reading

Surrey's Wentworth estate, where the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been detained for more than 100 days, may be exclusive, but a four-bedroomed house does have finite capacity.

As well as General Pinochet and his wife, it is hosting a butler, a maid, five armed policemen and the general's own security corps.

A Santiago-based foundation, named after the general to help the children of Chile's servicemen, is picking up the estimated £10,000-a-month rent on the house his friends have dubbed a "chalet" - plus a hefty insurance premium.

The owner of the house reportedly insisted on insurance being provided against damage from bombs, rockets or firearms when he discovered the identity of his new tenant.

[ image: Mrs Pinochet has been seen encouraging counter-protestors with the aid of a megaphone]
Mrs Pinochet has been seen encouraging counter-protestors with the aid of a megaphone
The 83-year-old is reported to enjoy light breakfasts, followed by walks on the property's patio - always under the close scrutiny of armed police officers, who search the grounds with dogs before they let their charge out.

He is said to spend time pedalling at his exercise bike to keep fit, and surfing the Web to keep tabs on events in Chile.

And he whiles away the rest of his day "voraciously" reading through newspapers and organising his campaign.

Police follow every move

His wife Lucia, meanwhile, delegates the domestic tasks. She is described as a "formidable woman" who ensures that guests do not outstay their welcome, and that the former general's shades-wearing security men pick up the correct groceries from Waitrose.

General Pinochet himself never gets a moment alone. A "close friend" told the Daily Telegraph he is not even allowed to nip to the loo unaccompanied. "The police follow him even when he goes to the lavatory. It is an intolerable situation," he said.

Police officers have the job of keeping the former general in the UK until it is decided whether the extradition process will be approved. He faces charges in Spain of genocide, torture and murder during his 17-year rule.

And, of course, police must keep him safe from his many opponents, whose noisy protests outside the estate can often be heard in the house. On the occasions when counter-demonstrators arrive, Mrs Pinochet has been seen shouting encouragement from the doorstep with a megaphone.

[ image: Pinochet cavalcade leaving Wentworth]
Pinochet cavalcade leaving Wentworth
The responsibility of keeping the former dictator so heavily guarded falls to the Metropolitan and Surrey police forces. On top of the five officers permanently policing his Lindale Close residence, there are two at the gate, and a further pair manning a second checkpoint near the estate entrance.

Half of the ground floor of the house - called Everglades - is taken up by police, who check out the former general's many visitors and shadow his movements.

Two officers are posted at the front door and three others hold the fort in a police room to the left of the entrance. Sniffer dogs are used regularly to patrol the house and its grounds.

Topped the £1m mark

Since his move to Surrey on 1 December last year, the costs of providing up to nine Special Branch and Surrey officers has so far amounted to £500,000.

Precise figures are hard to come by, but earlier this month, the Home Office confirmed it had given the Surrey force an extra £200,000 to help cover the costs of guarding Gen Pinochet, which have been reckoned at £50,000 a week.

If that figure is correct, the total bill for policing Pinochet since 16 October 1998 has already topped the £1m mark.

[ image: Anti-Pinochet protesters outside Belmarsh Magistrates Court]
Anti-Pinochet protesters outside Belmarsh Magistrates Court
Since his arrest on 16 October last year, Scotland Yard's bill has also continued to tot up - and was augmented considerably when he made his only court appearance to date at Belmarsh Magistrates Court in south east London on 11 December last year.

The legal fees generated by the Pinochet saga dwarf even the policing bill.

A total of 16 of the country's top judges and a fistful of high-earning lawyers have at different points considered the complex issues of the case.

Unofficial estimates of the overall legal costs - taking into account two full Lords hearings - have been made at £5-6m.

It is still not clear if Spain - which initiated the whole process - will help cover the costs. But it is widely accepted that the UK tax payer will foot the bill.

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