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WOMAN HELD BABY OVER SIDE OF FERRY; Escape bid 'like Wacko Jacko stunt'.

Byline: NAOMI McELROY

A WOMAN dangled a baby over a ship's railing by its ANKLES in a sick attempt to escape immigration police.

The woman, said to be in her 40s, was one of a group of Romanians trying to enter the country illegally on an Irish Ferries boat bound for Rosslare.

But when approached by gardai and French police she snatched the terrified child and used it as a human shield, dangling it over a railing to force police to back off.

Horrified passengers watched helplessly as the baby was held over the massive drop.

One eyewitness said: "We couldn't believe what she was doing. It was awful."

And another onlooker branded her, "As bad as Michael Jackson".

He said: "It was unbelievable. When the police arrived she started screaming and shouting and waving the child around over her head.

"Next thing she had it by the ankles and was dangling it over the railings.

"It was terrifying to watch, everyone was afraid to move for fear she'd let it fall.

"The first thing that went through my mind was that she got the idea from Michael Jackson.

"The whole world was shocked when he dangled his baby over a balcony - so she tried pulling the same stunt to force police to back off."

The woman was one of a group of illegal immigrants travelling on forged passports. They boarded the Irish Ferries ship MV Normandy in Cherbourg, France.

Gardai tried to stop the gang as they got on the ferry but they managed to give officers the slip, drove onto the boat and then abandoned their car, a Meath registered BMW 3 series.

The woman, a younger couple and the child then holed up in the ship's bar.

When approached by gardai and ship's staff the group refused to leave the ship - and when French police arrived the woman grabbed the child and held it over the railing.

Terrified crew members quickly moved passengers away and gardai backed down and desperately tried to calm the situation.

Eventually the woman announced she would go with the "English" police - but at the last moment collapsed screaming on the floor, the frightened child still in her arms.

The child was then snatched to safety, while French police rounded up the immigrant gang and marched them off the vessel.

Irish Ferries were unavailable for comment last night.

The world was stunned in 2002 when pop weirdo Michael Jackson dangled his baby son from a hotel balcony.

Wacko sickened millions when he held tiny Prince Michael II, only nine months old, over the side of a fifth floor balcony at Berlin's exclusive Adlon hotel.

The grotesque stunt was slammed by children's groups world-wide, and claims the pop superstar put his child's life in danger crippled his already fading career.

CAPTION(S):

Jacko hangs baby Prince William ll off hotel balcony
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2004
Words:477
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