A 62-YEAR-OLD rough-sleeper often seen in Huntingdon town centre is being held in a detention centre following her arrest.

The woman, known as Wendy and believed to be from Hong Kong, was arrested at Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House headquarters on Thursday because of concerns over her immigration status.

HDC officials confirmed that Wendy was visiting the offices to seek help with accommodation when she produced paperwork relating to the UK Border Agency.

The agency was contacted and officials said she had no legal right to be in the country. Cambridgeshire police said yesterday (Tuesday) that Wendy was being held at a detention centre, thought to be Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire.

An HDC spokesman said: “We had tried on a number of occasions to make contact with her and help her. She has always refused our help. We were satisfied that she was clothed and fed.

“But last week our community officers became involved when some members of the public expressed concern about her welfare.

“This time she agreed to come into the office. We were looking at how we could house her, when she produced some paperwork that linked her to the UK Border Agency. They said she was an 'over-stayer' and they came to collect her.”

Questions were raised as to why Wendy, who had been visiting in the town for more than 10 years and has lived in this country for 16 years, was arrested five days ago.

She regularly received handouts from businesses, and was helped by parishioners at All Saints' Church and the Methodist Church.

Hartford Road resident Bob Cossie-Moule has asked Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly to intervene.

He said: “If the police had questions, why did they go along condoning Wendy being in the town. She is a character and I think there were a lot of people keen on helping and supporting her.

“From time to time some of the youngsters used to annoy her, but most of the time she was treated with respect. People used to advise her to try to get help.

“It makes you think that if a donkey came into town carrying a woman with a baby in her arms, they could end up in Yarl's Wood.”

The Rev David King, who took over as minister of the Methodist Church from the Rev David Shaw in September, said: “She had spent a lot of time at the Methodist Church. She would come in and have a drink and sometimes have a wash at the church.

“People did what they could for her. Although I spoke to her and tried to point her in the right direction, I do not know her personal circumstances. She never spoke to me about them.”

A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said: “We were called to Pathfinder House to arrest an illegal immigrant, who was handed over to immigration. She is in an immigration centre and we are waiting to hear what will happen.”