How I Caught 'The Cat'; for Five Years She's Evaded Capture. but It Took Less Than 24 Hours for One Daily Mail Reporter to Track Down Britain's Most Elusive Female Fugitive

Daily Mail (London), September 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

How I Caught 'The Cat'; for Five Years She's Evaded Capture. but It Took Less Than 24 Hours for One Daily Mail Reporter to Track Down Britain's Most Elusive Female Fugitive


Byline: KATHRYN KNIGHT

FOR five years, she has been Britain's most wanted woman.

Dubbed 'The Cat' for her amazing ability to evade capture even by the largest of police manhunts, Fiona Mont, an attractive former public schoolgirl and mother of two small children, had become one of the country's most unlikely fugitives, running from the law on charges of alleged massive computer fraud.

The chase to bring her to justice has taken police all over Europe and cost thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money.

It bears all the hallmarks of a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde-style drama: desperate to avoid arrest, the 34-year-old, who has a baby son and a three-year-old daughter, had even faked her own suicide before fleeing to the Continent in a light aircraft piloted by her boyfriend Graham Hesketh, a convicted drug smuggler.

Safely ensconced abroad, Fiona was always one step ahead of the law. Indeed, so cocky was she that she even taunted police with emails boasting of her untouchable status.

Then a tip-off in January 2002 led police to a campsite near Malaga, where she was arrested and imprisoned pending extradition charges.

The Cat, it seemed, had used up at least some of her nine lives.

But not all of them. To the astonishment of British police, a Spanish magistrate granted bail. The Cat slinked to freedom and vanished once more.

A website, apparently set up by her boyfriend, boasted that Fiona was a 'brunette beauty who constantly evaded the law'. The trail, it seemed, had gone cold, and police reluctantly had to concede that Fiona was in hiding somewhere in mainland Europe.

This week, however, nearly five years after her initial arrest, the story took another fascinating turn: Fiona and her boyfriend, it emerged, had returned to Britain and were living and working somewhere on the south coast.

Hesketh - who likes to be known as 'The Baron' - even contacted a Sunday newspaper, touting a video diary of their life together for [pounds sterling]5,000. 'The police would be gutted if they knew how long we'd been here,' he bragged.

Nonetheless, without money he declined to reveal where they were.

Fiona's mother, who lives in the area, was not taking phone calls. And Hesketh, whose mobile number we had obtained, would only exchange information for money; but we were not prepared to pay a convicted criminal.

So we set out to find Fiona Mont ourselves. . .

HERS is an extraordinary tale - albeit one that started conventionally enough. She was born into one of the county's most prominent families: her mother, Joan, was chair of East Sussex County Council, and her late father Neville was a solicitor and the county's Under-Sheriff.

The youngest of three daughters, Fiona was educated at the prestigious [pounds sterling]7,000a-year St Mary's Hall Girls' School in Brighton.

No one, it seems, can ascertain exactly when - or perhaps most pertinently why - the dark-haired child began to rebel, but by the age of 15 Fiona was, according to police sources, committing acts of petty crime. She was also expelled from school for smoking.

In despair, her parents sent their wayward daughter to stay with relatives in Canada for a year, hoping the time abroad would tame her.

On her return, she appeared to have calmed down. She started to study law while also working in a local business centre - acquiring skills, according to police, which later helped her set up bogus companies which enabled her to order tens of thousands of pounds' worth of goods on credit.

She also took up with Tyrone Bishop, a sales rep and convicted car thief who introduced her to a number of unsavoury local characters, among them Hesketh, a convicted drug dealer who worked as a flying instructor at Shoreham airport.

Known locally as a quick-tempered, slippery character, Hesketh styles himself 'the Baron' after his hero, the World War I German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the 'Red Baron'. …

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