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'I'm innocent': Speedboat killer held in Georgia

Sky News logo Sky News 23/01/2019 Tom Gillespie, news reporter

A fugitive who was convicted over the death of a woman on his speedboat has insisted he is innocent as he handed himself in to police in Georgia.

a man looking at the camera: Jack Shepherd was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in his absence © PA Jack Shepherd was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in his absence

Jack Shepherd, from Exeter, appeared to smile at TV cameras as he entered the police station in the European country's capital Tbilisi.

He told the Georgian television station Rustavi2: "Yes my name is Jack Shepherd, I was involved in a tragic accident... in which a lady called Charlotte Brown tragically died."

a man wearing glasses: Jack Shepherd has handed himself in to police © Sky News Screen Grab Jack Shepherd has handed himself in to police

Ms Brown, 24, was killed when Shepherd's speedboat overturned in the River Thames during a first date in December 2015.

a woman wearing a hat: Charlotte Brown, 24, was killed while on a date with Shepherd in 2015 © PA Charlotte Brown, 24, was killed while on a date with Shepherd in 2015

Shepherd was sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in July 2018.

He denied the charge but was convicted in his absence.

An international manhunt started last year after he fled before the start of his three-week Old Bailey trial.

There had been reported sightings of Shepherd in Thailand and Turkey before he handed himself in to police on Wednesday.

Mariam Kublashvili, Shepherd's legal representative in Georgia, told Sky News the 31-year-old is "ready" to prove that he is innocent.

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Ms Kublashvili said he will be held for 48 hours before a judge will rule with regards to the extradition process.

She added: "Mr Shepherd says that he is not guilty.

"He says that this was an accident and that he lost confidence in his lawyer before the UK trial.

"He has friends in Georgia, that is why he came here and then decided to stay because of the false information that was being said about him in the media."

a red and white boat sitting next to a body of water: Shepherd's speedboat overturned in the Thames © Getty Shepherd's speedboat overturned in the Thames

The Metropolitan Police has said "extradition proceedings" will begin immediately if the man in Tbilisi is confirmed to be Shepherd.

The force said: "We have received information from the National Crime Agency that Jack Shepherd, who is wanted on an international arrest warrant, is in the custody of police in Georgia.

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"His identity has yet to be officially confirmed."

Sopho Mdinaradze, a spokeswoman for Georgia's interior ministry, said: "I confirm that Jack Shepherd handed himself to Georgian police today, 30 minutes ago."

She added that he "will be detained and afterwards legal procedures will be launched into his extradition to the UK".

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Georgian law states that extradition is granted over convicted individuals if they have been sentenced to at least four months' imprisonment.

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Ms Brown's father Graham, who cried on hearing of the the fugitive's arrest, wrote on Facebook: "Just been informed that Jack Shepherd has been arrested in Georgia.

"Justice for Charlotte is close!"

Shepherd was trying to impress Ms Brown after they met on the dating site OkCupid, but the boat flipped over after he handed her the controls.

Ms Brown, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was recovered from the water unconscious.

Shepherd was rescued after being found clinging to the upturned hull.

He has handed himself in a day after Ms Brown's father, mother and sister met with the home secretary.

Sajid Javid made a "personal commitment" to ensure the fugitive was arrested.

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The family had wanted to know what could be done to gain digital forensic evidence from Shepherd's contact with his lawyer, as they believe this could have help pinpoint his location.

Mr Brown told reporters afterwards: "Our message is clear - there can be no hiding place for Jack Shepherd."

He added: "The family will not rest until justice is done and Shepherd is held to account for the loss of our beautiful daughter."

Mr Javid tweeted after news of Shepherd's arrest: "I welcome news that Jack Shepherd is in police custody in Georgia.

"We will seek to swiftly extradite him to Britain.

"It is vital Charlotte Brown's family see justice done."

Shepherd's lawyer Richard Egan had refused to reveal where he is and helped him appeal against his conviction while he was on the run.

Mr Egan said after Shepherd's arrest on Wednesday: "In the light of today's developments I don't think it would be appropriate to comment further until Mr Shepherd is back in the jurisdiction."

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