Aid worker who tried to smuggle refugee into UK "preparing for the worst" ahead of sentencing

An aid worker and former soldier who tried to smuggle a four-year-old Afghan girl into the UK says he is "preparing for the worst and hoping for the best" as he waits to be sentenced by a French court.

Father-of-four Rob Lawrie, 49, says he will plead guilty on Thursday when he appears before magistrates in Boulogne but hopes the court will see that he "just tried to help a little girl".

Mr Lawrie, from Guiseley, Leeds, was stopped in Calais in October by border guards who found Bahar Ahmadi - known as Bru - in his van.

Rob Lawrie says his actions were a "moment of madness" Credit: Press Association

The former Army physical training instructor explained how he was helping build shelters in The Jungle camp when he got to know Bru, and her father asked him to help get her to close family members living in Leeds.Mr Lawrie said his actions in October were a "moment of madness".

All rational thought left me. I thought, how can I leave this little girl here.

Rob Lawrie

But Mr Lawrie was caught when British sniffer dogs at the Calais border found two Eritrean men who, unknown to him, had stowed in the back of his van.

French police arrested him over the stowaways and it was only when he was handcuffed in custody that he had to tell the authorities to go back to the van and look for Bru.

Rob said he couldn't leave Bru behind Credit: ITV News

Mr Lawrie explained how French police appeared to believe his story when they brought Bru into the detention centre and she ran over to give him a cuddle.

The former Royal Corps of Transport soldier said he feels numb as he waits to hear his fate. He has lost three stone since October and has been told the maximum sentence he faces is five years in prison or a 30,000 euro (£22,560) fine.

Asked if he thinks a jail sentence is possible, he said: "I would sayprobable.

I just thought this girl needs a better life than this.

Rob Lawrie

Thousands of people have signed a petition urging Foreign Secretary PhilipHammond to ask the French authorities for clemency. Mr Lawrie and supporters delivered the petition to the Foreign Office last week.