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Aileen Clarke reports
"It's not a night to be out in the hills"
 real 56k

Friday, 7 July, 2000, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Fears grow for missing group
helicopter landing
The search helicopter comes in to land
Concern is mounting for a group of suspected asylum seekers who ran off into remote Scottish countryside after their car was stopped by a patrol.

Police and mountain rescue teams have halted overnight efforts to find the group of six women, one of whom was carrying a baby, and a man.

They ran off after the car they were travelling in was stopped by a lone policeman checking vehicles near Loch Katrine in the Trossachs.

Loch Katrine
The search has centred on the area round Loch Katrine

The officer, from Central Scotland Police, was investigating reports of a housebreaking in Comrie, Perthshire, on Thursday afternoon.

An estimated 2,000 in cash and jewellery was taken in the burglary, during which the thieves were disturbed.

Central Scotland Police said that, as the officer tried to get the car keys from the male driver, he was hindered by the women.

The driver ran off and the officer gave chase but lost him in the heavily wooded countryside. When he returned to the car, the women had gone.

Fears for safety

Two of the women were described as elderly, and two were pregnant. One had a baby in her arms.

Fears for their safety have been increasing with reports that weather conditions in the area were likely to worsen.

Chief Inspector Neil McSporran, of Central Scotland Police, said: "It's a very big area to search.

"My primary concern is for the health and welfare of the people involved.

Chief Inspector Neil McSporran
Chief Inspector Neil McSporran: Safety concerns
"We don't know if they have in fact made their way clear from this area, and that could be the case, so really it's a belt and braces thing just now."

A Strathclyde Police helicopter was drafted in to help and 40 members of RAF Mountain Rescue teams based at RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars joined the search.

An RAF spokesman said: "It is a police matter. We have sent to mountain rescue teams to assist the police with their inquiries."

A police incident room has been set up at Callander police station, west Perthshire.

A spokeswoman for the immigration service said the group would be interviewed by officers when found and could be served with deportation papers.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Europe
EU fails child asylum seekers
19 Jun 00 | UK Politics
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25 Apr 00 | Scotland
Transcript: Escape to Glasgow
25 Apr 00 | Scotland
City's asylum policy attacked
24 Apr 00 | Talking Point
Asylum: Pandering to racists?
03 Apr 00 | Scotland
Refugee vouchers 'inhumane'
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