Police drop bail for Britons held in Guangzhou
Investigation into shopping dispute ends without charges for the two women but no official word on whether they can return home
Mimi Lau in Guangzhou and Ernest Kao
Guangzhou police have cancelled bail for two British women at the centre of an alleged shop brawl, state media reported last night, but it remains unclear whether they can return home.
Xinhua reported Liwan district police had completed their investigation and closed the file relating to Mary Idowu, 59, and Esther Jubril-Badmos, 48, from London. The two had been in criminal detention since police in Zhanqian in Liwan district detained them on June 21 for "provocation and disturbance of peace".
They allegedly got into a fight with shop staff over an order of custom-made slippers. Xinhua said they were accused of causing minor injuries to one man and two women, although the exact number of shop employees has varied in media reports.
They were accused of incurring damage worth more than 207,000 yuan (HK$260,000). The shopkeeper's list of demands included 150,000 yuan in compensation for a diamond ring that was missing after a "brutal beating" by two "foreign black women" armed with a shoe.
The Liwan district prosecutor refused to process the case on July 29, citing inadequate evidence, and the two were released on bail.
Desperate to go home, they paid a negotiated settlement of 45,000 yuan but their bail condition remained, and they were told it would take a year to investigate the complex case. With their visas expired, the two have been unable to return home.
The British consulate in Guangzhou said on Friday it was assisting the women, whose children had returned to Britain, and would continue to seek the women's return.
Attempts to contact the shopkeepers were unsuccessful. Friends who provided help to the women said the shop had moved following the incident. Idowu says she is suffering from high cholesterol and blood pressure, and cataract problems.
"We were in the hospital yesterday but the doctor said there is nothing they could do but to operate on her immediately," said Jubril-Badmos. She said they could not afford the treatment, which could cost 200,000 yuan.
Nie Gang, a 40-year-old church volunteer, is helping the two women explore petitioning channels used by local residents to press their grievances.
"I believe they are innocent. How can two petite women of their age be capable of beating up so many people while managing to steal the man's diamond ring?" Nie said.
He added that details provided by the shopkeeper about the incident contradicted police accounts.
"I'm a Christian, it makes me angry to see how they have been treated," Nie said, adding that he believed it was a scam to take their money.
"We have been kicked around like a football by different departments. It's useless but that's all we can do now," he said.
Two police officers handling the case in Zhanqian police station refused to comment.
Ojukwu Emma, a Nigerian community leader in China who has also helped the women, said conflicts between Chinese shop owners and African traders occurred on a daily basis.