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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT


Foster couple win custody - for now

The Bramleys with Jade and Hannah before they vanished

Jeff and Jenny Bramley, the couple who went on the run with two foster daughters they want to keep, have been given custody of the children while their adoption application is decided in the courts.

The BBC's David Sillito reports from the High Court in London
At a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court, Mrs Justice Hogg ruled it was in the best interests of Jade and Hannah Bennett to remain with their foster parents until a final decision on their future is made.

Meanwhile, the two girls have been made wards of court.

Social Affairs correspondent Alison Holt: Cambridgeshire Social Services still opposes the Bramleys' attempts to adopt
Justice Hogg's ruling followed a statement by social services chiefs that they were happy for the couple to stay with the children until a final decision on their future is made.

The Bramleys vanished from their Cambridgeshire home four months ago as social workers prepared to remove the young girls, fostered by the couple since March.

Despite a string of reported sightings across Britain and the Irish Republic the four eluded the police for 17 weeks before giving themselves up.

[ image: Natural mother Jackie Bennett: Delighted at the girls' return]
Natural mother Jackie Bennett: Delighted at the girls' return
The Bramleys said they had no choice but to go on the run. They dened the children had suffered in any way.

But according to Cambridgeshire Police, Mr and Mrs Bramley could still face criminal charges.

The case to decide the children's long-term future is expected to last for several months.

In her ruling, Mrs Justice Hogg paid tribute to all those involved in the search for the children, thanking the media, various police forces and members of the public who responded to appeals for information.

She appealed for time and freedom for the sisters and the Bramleys to come to terms with what happened.

Her ruling includes an order prohibiting the reporting of further information that would constitute an unwarranted intrusion into their privacy.

'Safe and well'

Cambridgeshire County Council's Director of Social Services, Liz Railton, said she was pleased with the co-operation her staff had received from Mr and Mrs Bramley since they surrendered themselves to police on Saturday.

"Jade and Hannah are safe and well and accommodated in circumstances approved by the court and Cambridgeshire social services," she said.

According to Ms Railton, the offer made by the council on Thursday allowing the couple to stay with their foster daughters was the crucial step in securing the return of the children.

"The action we have taken over the last 48 hours has been fully in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of that offer," said Ms Railton.

Girls 'in good spirits'

Five-year-old Jade and her three-year-old sister Hannah have been examined by a doctor who said both were physically fine. A council spokesman said they were "in good spirits" on Sunday after a day playing in winter sunshine, supervised by social workers.

The foster family flew back to the UK on Saturday, 17 weeks after going missing when social workers told the couple, from Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, that they were unsuitable to care for the sisters.

Jackie Bennett, the girls' natural mother, has stated the Bramleys should be allowed to keep the girls.

Paul Duckett, the natural father of five-year-old Jade, said he would accept Mrs Justice Hogg's decision but would be taking immediate steps to try to obtain a visit with his daughter.

Mr Duckett, 24, declined to discuss if he was planning further legal measures to take back his daughter, despite saying on Sunday he wanted to be Jade's "forever daddy".

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