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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK


UK

Visit for jailed Kosovo Britons

Ken Suckling (left) and James Free were sentenced to two weeks in prison

Foreign Office staff are to visit two British television company workers who were jailed in Serbia after accidentally crossing the border from Kosovo.

TV engineer Ken Suckling, 53, and driver James Free, 33, vanished 10 days ago.

It later transpired that they had been arrested in Vranje on the day they were last seen, and sentenced to 15 days in prison for illegal entry.


The BBC's Damian Grammaticas: "The men had spent two weeks in Kosovo"
The Yugoslav ministry of foreign affairs notified the British interests section at the Brazilian embassy in Belgrade of the whereabouts of the men, after a search was sparked when they were reported missing.

K-For troops and the UN mission in Pristina had carried out searches for Mr Suckling and Mr Free.

Details of the registration and description of the truck the pair were in were widely circulated.

Every checkpoint and barracks and all helicopters flying over the province were briefed to look out for them.

Experienced in working abroad

The pair, who work for UK-based SNG Broadcast Services, had been in Pristina for two weeks and were about to embark on the first leg of their journey back to London.


[ image: James Free: Regular visitor to Kosovo]
James Free: Regular visitor to Kosovo
They had been working on a project to set up a public service TV station in the province's capital.

Both are highly experienced in working abroad, and were equipped with mobile phones that worked in the region.

Mr Suckling, from Portsmouth, and Mr Free, from London, were planning to drive through Macedonia to Thessaloniki in Greece, then on to London.

It is believed they took a wrong turning and strayed into Serb-controlled territory.

'Enormous relief'

An SNG spokesman said: "We are extremely grateful to the Foreign Office for their efforts in tracing Ken Suckling and James Free.

"The families have been notified and are enormously relieved at this news."

Mr Suckling has worked for the company for four years and is highly experienced in situations similar to Kosovo, providing TV facilities during the Rwandan civil war and the Middle East conflict.

Mr Free has visited the region several times in the past six months and was returning after delivering equipment to Pristina.

The condition of the men is not yet known.



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