In the Media

On-the-run thief boasts of freedom on internet

PUBLISHED August 1, 2006

SHE is a former magazine editor, a property tycoon?s daughter, a would-be author, an international conwoman and a convicted fraudster.

Now Farah Damji has added yet another string to her bow: she has become Britain?s first on-the-run blogger.

Damji, 39, a mother of two, has absconded from Downview prison in Surrey where she is serving a 3?-year sentence for dishonesty and perverting the course of justice.

The former editor of the Asian lifestyle magazine Another Generation was released to attend a tutorial as part of the Open University sociology degree for which she was studying while in prison.

She was expected to return on Saturday night, but was still on the run yesterday and advertising her freedom on her blog on the website.

?Seems I am the cause for great consternation because I have apparently ?absconded?,? she wrote yesterday morning. ?I don't think you can call it that.?

On Tuesday, in an entry entitled ?Sea Air?, she wrote of how much she was enjoying not being in prison. ?It?s so peaceful, the sound of seagulls replacing the screaming police sirens streaming up and down Kings Road.?

She added: ?Blue skies, sea air. Some of the prison pallor is leaving me, I?m starting to feel awake again. Gonna go for a long walk this morning.

?Gov Murray, Downview?s new governor, is gentle and kind, with big soft dark brown eyes. In Bad Girls he?d have been a rascal but he was always respectful and honest. Is it possible to admire your jailer??

Last Thursday, while preparing to leave prison, she noted: ?It feels incredibly strange to be allowed this taste of freedom again. It?s the silly things I missed, my Pratesi bed linen, the smell of my daughter?s golden brown hair and the way the sun dances in her eyes like fire in a forest, watching my son?s sportsday. It?s not the people at all, very few I even want to maintain any contact with from the old life.?

The Home Office is far from amused by Damji?s unauthorised absence. It said: ?She is what we call a licence failure. She was released on licence and failed to return.?

When Damji, who featured in gossip columns after an affair with the travel writer William Dalrymple and an executive at The Guardian, does return to prison she could find herself disqualified from receiving remission on her sentence.

But speaking to The Times on her mobile phone yesterday Damji insisted that she had neither absconded nor escaped and would go back to the jail.

?I?ve been in constant touch with them and they know where I am. I think it?s all just a misunderstanding,? she said. Damji has e-mailed the prison pleading to be fitted with an electronic tag to live at home. She added: ?I can?t take being stuck in Downview anymore.?

Damji was convicted at Blackfriars Crown Court last October of thefts totalling ?50,000. She had stolen credit cards from friends and colleagues and gone on shopping sprees.

In January 2005 she posed as a journalist on the Daily Mail to obtain two platinum rings from Boodle & Dunthorne, which were not recovered. Once charged she tried to sabotage her trial by contacting a witness.

Damji, who has had treatment in jail for drug problems and has a borderline personality disorder, served a six-month sentence at Rikers Island jail in New York for grand larceny and forgery.

But she managed to hide her past from her associates in Britain, where she established her home in fashionable Chelsea and herself as a leading Asian journalist.