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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 05:26 GMT
Man jailed for backpacker kidnap
Jennifer Pope
Mrs Pope has not made contact with relatives since January 2006
A security guard has been jailed for 25 years in Ecuador after being found guilty of robbing and kidnapping a British nurse.

Francisco Fabian Sanchez Chica, 29, abducted Jennifer Pope, 50, from Greater Manchester, while she was on a backpacking trip to the country.

He had earlier lost an appeal against kidnap, theft and robbery charges.

Mrs Pope has been missing since 9 January 2006, and police and her family fear she is dead.

The defendant, also known as Pancho de la Cruz, was not at the Ambato Supreme Court, in central Ecuador, on Wednesday, to hear the three-judge panel pass sentence.

Mrs Pope's husband, David, 57, and son, Stefan, 23, were also not at the hearing, though Mr Pope later said he and his family were "very pleased indeed with the sentence".

"Nothing will bring Jenny back," he said. "But this sentence we hope will allow us to move towards the grieving process.

'Very disappointed'

"However we feel this verdict is only the first stage. We are told Chica is almost certain to appeal and until the appeals are finished we cannot be certain of the outcome."

Chica's lawyer Thomas Barrionuevo said he expected an appeal would be lodged after the court had reached a "very disappointing conclusion".

During a 90-minute hearing, the court was told Chica stole Mrs Pope's cash card and emptied her account of $2,500 (1,290).

He also stole other items of hers, including presents her family, from Mossley, Tameside, had given her before she left on her six-month trip.

Police discovered the items in cupboards and drawers at the home Chica shared with his wife, the court heard.

Maximum term

Mrs Pope disappeared after sending her family an email from a hostel she was staying at, in the mountain town of Banos, where Chica was a security guard.

The court was told police had been unable to charge the defendant with her murder because her body has not been recovered.

However, following the hearing, Mr Barrionuevo said: "The sentence of 25 years is the maximum and we would have hoped it would have been considerably less.

"The police have never found the body of Mrs Pope and it is hard to understand what evidence the judges would have found that was so compelling to justify a jail term of this length."

Tragic end to a well-earned trip
10 Jan 07 |  Manchester
Backpacker kidnap trial to be set
15 Nov 06 |  Manchester
Guard denies backpacker's kidnap
13 Oct 06 |  Manchester
Missing nurse 'has been murdered'
07 Mar 06 |  Manchester
Nurse hunt police go to Ecuador
27 Feb 06 |  Manchester
Missing nurse's account emptied
03 Feb 06 |  Manchester

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