[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 14:23 GMT
Pensioner freed after FBI bungle
Derek Bond and his wife Audrey after his release
Mr Bond was held for three weeks
A British pensioner freed from a South African police cell after a case of mistaken identity has said he is glad his ordeal is over and now just wants to return home.

Derek Bond, 72, was held at Durban police station under FBI orders for nearly three weeks after being arrested at gunpoint while on holiday with his wife.

On Wednesday the FBI conceded the Bristol grandfather and Rotarian was not the man they had been seeking, wanted fugitive and fraud suspect Derek Sykes.

A man believed to be the real Derek Sykes, also known as Derek Bond, was arrested in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening and officials say it is a case of identity theft.

Speaking after his release, Mr Bond said: "It's an enormous relief to be freed and under such circumstances.

I was really getting very despondent
Derek Bond
"It came right out of the blue and was against the way things seemed to be going.

"Though I protested my innocence from the beginning this seems to have had little impact on the FBI.

"I was really getting very despondent."

Earlier on Wednesday, John Lewis from the US Attorney's office in Texas told the BBC: "We got the wrong man, Mr Bond is owed an apology."

Derek Bond's ordeal
Feb 6: Arrested on arrival in South Africa
Feb 10: Agreed to be extradited to US to clear his name
Feb 14: US authorities discover Mr Bond is claiming mistaken identity
Feb 25: US prosecutor tipped off about "real" Mr Sykes in Las Vegas
Feb 26: Mr Bond released

Mr Bond said he had slept on a concrete floor and found it hard to eat.

Admitting he had lost weight, he said: "I didn't eat anything for three days. Even though my wife was allowed in to bring me food, I just couldn't eat.

"I have lived on a diet of 60% fruit. I was quite pleased to lose weight, but not in this way."

His wife Audrey said she was "over the moon" to hear the news of his release, which came after a court appearance on Wednesday morning.

"I'm absolutely delighted," she said.

Other friends and family were equally enthusiastic.

Mr Bond's son Peter, from Yaxley, Cambridgeshire, said: "It's just the best news we have heard all day. It's fantastic.

"We just can't wait to speak to him and to see him."

Identity theft

His daughter Gillian Bond told BBC News her father was being very "stoical" but the prison experience had "affected him a great deal".

Ms Bond, who returned on Tuesday from South Africa, said: "He was kept in a cell with very little air flowing and very high temperatures."

Mr Lewis said he had received a tip-off that the man believed to be one of America's most wanted men was living in Las Vegas, Nevada, not South Africa.

He deserves an apology and he certainly gets one from me
John Lewis, Texas US Attorney's office
FBI agents then arrested the man, who had a passport in the name of Derek Sykes.

Mr Lewis said: "He deserves an apology and he certainly gets one from me. I do apologise and others, I'm sure, will as well."

Mr Lewis said he had received an anonymous tip a fugitive was living in Las Vegas under the name Robert Grant.

He said: "He had identification in the name of Robert James Grant but he eventually admitted his name was Derek Lloyd Sykes and he apparently had a British passport in the name of Sykes.

"And he admitted he had worked for the company we have charged with fraud.

"He has admitted he is the person whom we have charged. He has not confessed to the crime.

"The short answer is: it is a case of identity theft.

"As far back as 1989, the person arrested was using the name and the identity of Derek Bond."

Moral support

Mr Bond was detained on 6 February on suspicion of being the man wanted in connection with a telemarketing scheme which defrauded people of millions of dollars.

Mr Lewis said he believed it had taken so long to clear Mr Bond's name because he had waived his right to an identity hearing in South Africa and had agreed to be extradited to the US.

Gillian Bond, with her brothers Peter (right) and Richard (behind)
The Bond children insisted their father was innocent
A South African court had ruled Mr Bond could be extradited, but it was put on hold, pending final determination of his identity.

The Interpol website carried an image of a Derek Lloyd Sykes on its "wanted" page.

Mr Sykes is the same age as Mr Bond, according to the website.

Mr Bond's son Peter, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, criticised the way the FBI and American embassy had handled the situation.

Andrew Gregg, solicitor for the Bond family, said he would be advising them to sue for false imprisonment and wrongful arrest when Mr Bond returned to the UK.

He said: "The lesson in this is that we cannot rely on American intelligence as it is not always 100% reliable."

How should the FBI compensate pensioner Derek Bond? What is your reaction? Use the postform below to send you comments. This Have Your Say was suggested by Clifton Gare-Mogg.

Considering the amounts claimed by people in ultra litigious USA for much less serious problems he should be suing for millions of dollars. Hopefully he will give some of it to one of the charities he worked for. Perhaps we should also reflect on the poor intelligence the FBI have based this fiasco on and ask ourselves if this gives an insight into the claims against Iraq made by other agencies in the USA who are convinced of their infallibility.
Alastair Wight,UK

Anyone can make a mistake but this one is especially worrying. First, because it was made by an intelligence body in a country that wants us to go to war based on its intelligence. Second because of the absurd amount of time Mr Bond was left to languish in jail. He should be handsomely compensated for his ordeal.
Matthew Holt, UK

Sue them for everything you can get Mr Bond.
Karl, UK

I'm glad for Mr Bond that it's now sorted out, and I can imagine he'll be after more than an apology from the FBI. It's easy to empathise with Mr Bond's predicament - a boiling rage - you got the wrong man, you clowns! But now imagine you're on Death Row in Texas and you didn't do it.
Anthony, UK

Mistaken identity maybe, but why did it take three weeks for the shambles to be sorted out? If this is the standard of US intelligence services, should we take anything the US says seriously especially over Iraq. I hope the FBI compensate Mr Bond for his ordeal and the loss of his holiday!
Robin Lloyd, UK

It's another example of the US government being over zealous, thinking they have their man they cannot conceive that they could possibly be wrong. I admire Mr Bond's calm attitude to what must have been a terrible and frightening ordeal. I think the FBI should compensate Mr Bond for the anguish they have caused because of their incompetence. Should we rely on American Intelligence? I'm beginning to wonder.
Antony Buckmaster, England

Mr. Bond has every right to sue the FBI, and good luck to him
Edward, UK
For a pensioner to be falsely arrested at gunpoint by the FBI while on holiday is nothing short of shameful. If they had bothered to do the smallest bit of homework, for example comparing the picture of the criminal with Mr. Bond, they would not have needed to take days to find out that they had the wrong man. Mr. Bond has every right to sue the FBI, and good luck to him. Their arrogance is this matter is appalling.
Edward, UK

Relieving a man of his liberty is a terrible thing especially when he is an innocent. Out of genuine respect for the victim, I believe the FBI should be forthcoming with an offer of compensation. An apology is not enough in this case. The man is old, and could have died in custody. Big Brother should start getting its facts right before putting people in jail.
Ian, UK

This was a terrible for Bond family. They should sue for proper compensation from FBI. This was not a first time. Last time when the missile hit Chinese embassy in Belgrade because a map of the US intelligent data base was not updated. Please give them some thought. Apologies are useless if this thing can happen in the future to other innocent people.
Soulin, Laos

If the American's intelligence on something this small is this wrong how can we rely on their intelligence about Iraq?
Andrea Carmichael, Scotland

The sum of $1 million dollars will do, most of which I am sure Mr Bond will contribute to his charities. As long as it hurts the FBI and jerks them out of their complacency.
Jeff W, UK

Given that the photograph on the Interpol website is obviously not Derek Bond, the FBI should fork out a sizeable sum in compensation. It takes just a few seconds to notice that the facial features are distinctly different, especially the nose and jowls, so the FBI have no excuse.
C Johnson, England

Absolutely. The FBI, Interpol and SA government should be apologising to and compensating Mr Bond for three weeks of false imprisonment. This is an outrage - how long would Mr Bond have stayed in a South African jail had the "real" fugitive not been identified in Vegas?
Craig, UK

Absolutely disgraceful. It's enough to affect him for the rest of his life. I hope he gets enough money to have more carefree holidays. Can you compensate him for the stress?
Pat Edwards, England

Having just returned from working in the legal field in the US for the past 8 years, obtaining any compensation from the FBI will tough. I personally feel that Mr. Bond should be compensated by paying for another holiday, and compensating him financially for his wrongful imprisonment. However, knowing the FBI and how it uses its resources, any form of compensation is going to have to be fought for via the Federal Court system.
Lisa Beam, England

What confidence can we have in USA intelligence with regard to a potential war with Iraq, when they assume Derek Bond was a fugitive. On their say-so an old man is locked up in a South African jail! It's disgraceful! What's next? World War III?
Clare Parnacott, England

I think the FBI should make a very public broadcast of their error - in the way they do when it suits them. Yet again, it shows the incompetence of the "super power"... I just can't help thinking about all those in Delta-X. Could they also be the "wrong man"?
William Dowell, UK

Luckily this sort of case is rare and here had a relatively happy and prompt outcome. When the EU proposals for arrest and extradition (without appeal or a hearing) from any one EU country to another come into force these sorts of errors will become much more common and none the less distasteful.
Niall Clarke, Manchester, England


Your E-mail address



Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Durban
"Derek Bond's ordeal is over"

How the mix-up happened
26 Feb 03 |  England
Profile: Derek Bond
25 Feb 03 |  England
FBI questions arrested pensioner
25 Feb 03 |  England
Grandfather 'left to rot'
25 Feb 03 |  England

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific