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Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 16:40 GMT
Aitken seeks solace in church

Aitken family Jonathan Aitken with his son, daughter, and mother

Disgraced former cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken made his first public appearance since his release from jail on Sunday - to go to church.

The 57-year-old emerged from his 1.5m home in Westminster, London, to attend a local church service after spending his second night as a free man.

He was released on Friday after serving almost seven months of an 18-month prison sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice during his doomed libel action against the Guardian and Granada Television.

The former Tory MP, who has not been seen outside his home since his release from Elmley jail in Kent, must wear an electronic tag to enforce a 7pm to 7am curfew.

Jonathan Aitken with Reverend Philip Chester Jonathan Aitken chatted to the Reverend Philip Chester
Mr Aitken appeared outside his house just before lunchtime and walked the short distance to St Matthew's Church flanked by his son William, daughter Victoria and his mother, Lady Penelope Aitken.

He looked relaxed and happy as the group, accompanied by a friend, strolled in the sunshine to the morning service.

Aitken refused to answer questions about his future plans or give anything away about his experiences in prison.

It is understood he intends to study for a theology degree at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, after becoming deeply committed to the subject during his time in prison.

'Friendly words'

According to friends, he wants to begin his studies as soon as possible and it is thought he has asked the Home Office for permission for the college to be regarded as his home base for tagging purposes instead of his home in London.

He also declined to be drawn on the whereabouts of his electronic tag and would not bow to requests from reporters to reveal it.

The close family group spent just over an hour at St Matthew's before emerging together on the steps of the church to make the short walk home.

As they left, Mr Aitken exchanged a few friendly words with the Reverend Philip Chester, who shook his hand warmly before bidding him goodbye.

He then made his way home again refusing to acknowledge any questions from the waiting press pack.

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See also:
07 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Aitken freed from prison
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken returns to prison
25 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Christmas mass for Aitken and family
07 Jan 00 |  e-cyclopedia
Electronic tagging: A virtual prison?
08 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken: A glittering career cut short
09 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Aitken's 'eternal shame' about lies
08 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Jail sentence for Aitken

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