Pinochet checks out of Clinic

The High Court's decision last Wednesday to grant General Augusto Pinochet diplomatic immunity on charges of genocide and torture drew responses of "betrayed by Britiain" from disbelieving crowds of Chilean exiles.

But it also won plaudits from the pro-Pinochet right and Santiago-based newspaper El Mercurio which applauded the judges "courage and independence."

At 8.30am on Thursday morning, only hours after his court success, Pinochet was spirited out of the London Clinic where he had resided for the previous two weeks.

Half an hour before 15 police officers sealed off the side entrance (Devonshire Mews West) to the exclusive £400 per night, private hospital. The operation caught all of the protestors and much of the world's media off-guard.

Only a dozen journalists winessed an ambulance collect the ex-dictator before his high-speed transferral to Grovelands Priory Psychiatric Hospital in Southgate, North London.

Local residents stood bemused as a six-police vehicle strong convoy swept past in the breakfast rush hour.

Attention centered on the appearance of a moustachioed man who leapt from a red Ford Sierra, brandishing his badge of authority. This later transpired to be Commander Mulverhill of Scotland Yard's special branch, who was charged with overseeing Pinochet's removal.

The General himself has spoken of his "humiliation" and complained of feeling "let down by Britain."

His wife, Lucia, who accompanied him in the ambulance later appealed to "God and the virgin Mary" to assist her beleaguered husband.