Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Marine denies having had sex with runaway girl

AFP , FRANKFURT

A former US marine who ran off with a 12-year-old British girl denied on Thursday having had sex with her and said that he would not fight his extradition to Britain, a court official said.

By not opposing the extradition demand, Toby Studabaker could be sent to Britain within days, said the official, Klaus Michael Ullrich.

The 31-year-old Afghan war veteran told the Frankfurt district court that he did not have sex with Shevaun Pennington, with whom he had formed a relationship exchanging e-mails and telephone calls over the period of a year.

Ullrich said Studabaker, who has been charged with child abduction, had believed the girl was not a minor, although police have claimed that he was aware of her true age.

During the hearing, the accused recounted the events of a five-day escapade with Shevaun which began after he met her in person for the first time in northwest England on Saturday.

He said they had flown together from the English city of Manchester to Paris and then travelled on to the northeast French city of Strasbourg.

During that time they discovered in a newspaper that police were searching for them, Ullrich explained.

Studabaker said he then took Shevaun to Stuttgart, where she took a return flight back to Britain, while he called the FBI in the US for advice on what to do next.

After the FBI told him to contact US authorities in Germany, he was arrested in Frankfurt on Wednesday trying to get to the US consulate there.

However a spokeswoman for state prosecutors in Frankfurt, Hildegard Becker-Toussaint, said earlier they had not established grounds to charge him with intent to sexually abuse the girl.

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