Ellingham prepares for WikiLeaks founder

A QUIET Norfolk village has found itself in the spotlight after it emerged that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be bailed to a stately home there, making himself an unlikely Christmas guest.

The 39-year-old whistleblower, who is wanted in Sweden for alleged sex offences, was granted bail at a court hearing yesterday after supporters agreed to post a �200,000 cash deposit.

But he was told he would remain behind bars after Swedish authorities said they would fight his release ahead of a full extradition hearing next year. They will appeal against bail at the High Court tomorrow.

If he does secure bail Assange will swap his jail cell at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London for Ellingham Hall, near Bungay, an elegant Georgian mansion set in 600 acres of rolling parkland.

The WikiLeaks boss will be a house guest at the 10-bedroom estate owned by Capt Vaughan Smith, who served in the British Army before setting up the Frontline Club in London, in 2003, to champion independent quality journalism. Speaking today, Capt Smith apologised to residents for any disruption they might face.

He said: “It may well be that Ellingham has never been the focus of so much interest nationally before and it may never again.

“This is one of the biggest stories of the decade, so a sleepy, peaceful and tranquil place like Ellingham ends up right in the spotlight.

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“I apologise to anybody impacted or disturbed by the press arriving. I will try to speak to any neighbours who might be surprised by this as soon as I can to explain what is going on. I think I should explain why I have brought this upon them.”

Read the full story in Friday’s Beccles and Bungay Journal.