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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Missing pair found
Stacey Champ and David Milner
Stacey Champ and David Milner spent four nights away
Police have found missing teenager Stacey Champ and the middle-aged man she ran away with.

Stacey, 14, and 46-year-old David Milner were found in Berriedale, in Caithness in the Scottish Highlands, early on Monday morning.

The pair, described as "safe and well", were spotted by a couple who called police after recognising Mr Milner's car from news reports.

They vanished from Stacey's home town of Gillingham, Kent, on Thursday, and had spent at least two nights at a Blackpool hotel posing as man and wife before they were tracked down.

Ken Falconer, a member of the public who helped police stop the pair, told BBC News the couple were shocked to be found.

The two of them were both fast asleep [in their car], and the first thing they knew was when police started knocking on the window
Witness Ken Falconer
They were found sleeping in their car, parked in a layby, and he helped police block the vehicle with his own car while officers approached the pair, he said.

"The two of them were both fast asleep, and the first thing they knew was when police started knocking on the window."

Mr Milner, who looked "quite rough" and obviously had not shaved for a couple of days, did not resist when he was arrested.

"Once they woke up, they just waited to see what would happen, really. There was no drama, no excitement, they didn't try running out over the heather or anything like that."

Mother delighted

But Stacey - who "certainly didn't look 14" - grew very tearful when police handcuffed Mr Milner and led him away, Mr Falconer said.

"She was pretty upset, she started crying as soon as she realised what was happening... I felt a bit sorry for her really, she wasn't too happy."

Kent Police said Mr Milner was now in custody, and the couple would be flown to Kent, separately, later on Monday.

Officers thanked the media and public - from whom 3,000 calls had been received - for their support.

Inspector Richard Watson said Stacey's parents had been told, and the teenager's mother was "delighted".

She did not look like she was being held against her will or anything like that
Blackpool hotel cleaner

Stacey's school, who described the teenager as "popular and hardworking", said she would be welcomed back "as soon as she is ready".

Judy Rider, the new head of Upbury Arts College in Gillingham, said she hoped to have a meeting with Stacey's parents, to discuss a "suitable package of support" for the the girl and her family.

'Giggly and lovestruck'

Staff at the Central Hotel in Blackpool said the pair checked in as "Mr and Mrs Thomas" on Thursday, before checking out on Saturday afternoon.

They said the pair seemed like "an ordinary couple" and did not attract any attention.

A cleaner, who gave her name only as Lena, said: "I could not believe it when they said she was 14. She looked a lot older than that to me.

THE PAIR'S MOVEMENTS
1 Gillingham - Stacey's home, from where she vanished on Thursday
2 Newbury - Reported sighting on Thursday
3 Bristol - pair's van found on Friday
4 Blackpool - Pair stayed on Thursday and Friday night and bought a car
5 Berriedale - Pair spotted by member of public early on Monday morning

"She did not look like she was being held against her will or anything like that."

Another woman said she believed them when they introduced themselves as a married couple aged 22 and 37, although Stacey was "giggling" and "lovestruck".

Kent Police and various other forces had been frantically tracing the couple as they moved across the country, making several public appeals for help.

There was a reported sighting of the pair in Newbury in Berkshire on Thursday, and their van was then found in Bristol.

Police said the pair had bought a red VW Golf in Blackpool on Friday, and stayed in the resort on Thursday and Friday. They were in the car when they were found.

The pair are believed first to have met through Stacey's mother, a colleague of Mr Milner, about two years ago, and had grown close.

Airports and ports had been alerted in case the pair tried to flee abroad, after more than 1,000 was withdrawn from Mr Milner's bank account.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"Mr Milner is now in police custody"



SEE ALSO:
Missing girl seen in Blackpool
31 Aug 03  |  England
Girl, 14, missing with man
30 Aug 03  |  Kent


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