The warning on the wayfarer's pulpit outside Marazion Methodist church in Cornwall, England, reads: 'Gossip is the devil's radio. Don't be an announcer.' So, mindful of that advice, I won't reveal which animal's noise to imitate to be let in after knocking at the church's side-door. 'It's a bit cloak and dagger,' Ken Taylor said as he opened the door. He and his wife take turns with a team of other local sympathisers in looking after 'The Fugitive'. Below a back-wall in the hall behind the church is the bed. The mobile phone sits in the pulpit beside the blue cushion where the open Bible rests. 'We tried various places but found it needs to be as high as possible to get any reception,' Mr Taylor said. The Fugitive hangs back until addressed directly, then softly draws up a chair to explain why he has taken sanctuary in the church, giving this little town its biggest excitement in a long time. Since he arrived last week, he has had favourable reports on local television. Offers of food and support have flooded in. A rota of families bring cooked meals. A pile of letters is growing. Even the tenant of one of Britain's most spectacular piles admits his heart is touched. High up in his family castle on St Michael's Mount in the bay opposite, the fourth Lord St Levan said: 'Poor man. I'll probably send him a cake or something.' The man who has inspired this sympathy is an 'overstayer'. Albert Tong came to Britain from Hong Kong to visit his brother for a month and stayed for 17 years, acquiring a Cornish wife and a three-year-old daughter, now racing round the aisles on a tricycle. His case has twice gone to court, but since Mr Tong admits he is here illegally, the judges had to return the matter to the Home Secretary Michael Howard to exercise his discretion. That discretion is being administered harshly. Mr Tong was served with a deportation order and told to leave on May 29. That afternoon he disappeared, later turning up at the church. Up at the community centre that serves Marazion's 1,200 people, children are playing badminton while their parents chat. 'If you can't look after your neighbour, who can you look after?' Carol Eddy said. 'The general feeling is that the man should stay.' Marazion prides itself on its community spirit. It has twice won a national award for raising more money per person for cancer research than any other town. One factor may be the feudal cocoon which wraps the town, thanks to its wealth-spinning neighbour, St Michael's Mount. Once the site of a Benedictine priory, the rock was where Perkin Warbeck left his wife for safety before setting off with his doomed rebellion. In 1647, John St Aubyn, a colonel, was appointed military governor, and 12 years later bought the Mount. The St Aubyns have owned it ever since. The third Lord St Levan gave the Mount plus a large endowment fund to the National Trust in return for his family's right to lease the grounds and living quarters for 999 years. Thirty people still live on the island. The fourth Lord St Levan, now 77 and retired as a solicitor, has seen Mr Tong on television. 'I'm terribly sorry for him. He looks an awfully nice man.' Can the Mount, with its long traditions of pilgrimage, offer sanctuary? 'Historically, we can't. We were exempted by the Pope in 1338. Even now we're not subject to the jurisdiction to the Church of England,' he said. Fortified by the wave of support, Mr Tong is ready to stay for months. To show they were not trying to hide Mr Tong, his friends informed police as soon as they decided on sanctuary. They will not resist by force, since church sanctuary has not been a legal concept in Britain since the 17th century. But the mobile phone will alert the media if the immigration officers return. Jim Wilson, Mr Tong's solicitor, has applied to the European Court of Human Rights, and they hope the Home Secretary will stay the deportation order at least until that case is heard. Andrew George, the area's Liberal Democrat candidate, said: 'If the Home Secretary is so determined to hound this family, then he should come over and explain to three-year-old Monica why he's tearing her father away.'