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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 September, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
'Anti-abduction' implant for children
Wendy and Danielle Duval
Wendy Duval wants to protect Danielle by tagging her
Parents afraid that their daughters could be abducted are asking a British scientist to implant a tracking microchip under their skin, so that they can be found quickly.

Cybernetics expert Kevin Warwick said he had received requests for the procedure from "a number of families" following the deaths of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

One girl, 11-year-old Danielle Duval, will have a device implanted in her arm sometime during the next few months.

Mr Warwick said the system could work by using a mobile phone network or global positioning system, to pinpoint the person on an electronic map via a signal from the implant.

'Sleep mode'

The procedure would involve putting a small transmitter about one inch long into a child's arm or stomach.


If the general trend in Britain is in favour of such an operation it will be ready to go by Christmas

Kevin Warwick
"A potential abductor wouldn't know the child had the device and it could be switched off to sleep mode when it wasn't needed to conserve its battery," the Reading University academic said.

Mr Warwick said that watches with a similar function now on sale in the US, are too easy to remove and discard.

He said it was up to society to decide if the procedure was ethical and whether parents, the police or a judge would have the power to activate the microchip.

"There are of course many more questions to be asked and I suspect there will be objections to an implant," he said.

"But if the general trend in Britain is in favour of such an operation it will be ready to go by Christmas."

'It's a shame'

Danielle Duval's mother, Wendy, decided to let her daughter be a guinea pig for the project following the discovery of the bodies of Holly and Jessica, from Soham in Cambridgeshire.

Kevin Warwick
Kevin Warwick believes the implant could save lives
Former school caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, has been charged with their murder and his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, 25, with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mrs Duval, from Reading in Berkshire, said: "I think it's just to make sure your children are safe.

"It's a shame you have to go to these lengths to keep your children safe but I would rather do that than have anything happen to her."

She compared the device to the tracking systems fitted to cars and said many of her friends were interested in protecting their children, including boys, in the same way.

Danielle also said she was happy to have the tag fitted.

"I'll feel so much safer - I'll know my mum knows where I am," she said.

'Peace of mind'

The tag will be put in Danielle's arm by a GP using local anaesthetic in a procedure expected to take minutes.

Mr Warwick said the device could cost less than 20.

Commenting on the Duval's decision he said: "I think they were looking for piece of mind that if anything did happen to Danielle that within a few minutes we would be able to locate them."

The controversial scientist previously made the news when he wired his own nervous system to a computer, in an experiment he hopes will eventually give paralysed people more control over their own bodies.

'Possible dangers'

His latest project was attacked by children's charity Kidscape.

A spokesman told The Guardian newspaper: "We do not think this is a good idea.

"Children should be taught about the possible dangers, rather than having something stuck on them that can maybe track them, and perhaps then only when it's too late."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Asad Ahmad
"The technology is still in its trial phase"
Cybernetics expert Professor Kevin Warwick
"We want to put the technology into a product that we can test with Danielle"
Paul Duval, father of Danielle
"I think it is a good thing for parents to know where their children are"

Click here to go to BBC Berkshire Online
See also:

02 Sep 02 | Scotland
21 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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