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Owner of JoJo's restaurant in Tankerton, Nikki Billington, has people smuggling case dropped

A popular restaurant owner arrested on suspicion of people smuggling after a migrant was found in the boot of her car has been told the investigation has been dropped.

Nikki Billington – who runs JoJo’s Meze in Tankerton – was held by police in Calais after the Eritrean woman was discovered by Border Force officers in May this year.

The restaurateur was one of three people arrested and the migrant was handed to the French Police Aux Frontieres (PAF).

JoJo's owner Nikki Billington
JoJo's owner Nikki Billington

Ms Billington, 48, told KentOnline's sister paper the Whitstable Gazette at the time she had travelled to France with two friends to take food and supplies to a hospital near the Calais Jungle.

She said: “We spent most of the day visiting starved people in hospital, I got complacent and when I came back to the car I didn’t check to see if someone had got in.

“We went there on a humanitarian basis to deliver aid – to do something as a favour.

"I just want to put this behind me and run my business" - Nikki Billington

“There was a massive fight in a queue at the camp where people were stabbed and we went to take supplies to people at the hospital, to cater for people with different dietary requirements.”

Ms Billington is a staunch campaigner for refugees in Calais and held a fundraising auction at her award-winning restaurant in February – hosted by Madness frontman Suggs.

She said she has been volunteering in Calais – helping those seeking asylum – for about a year, but would take a break following her arrest.

Ms Billington said: “I have been working out there for a year and there are people who are desperately seeking asylum.

“I’m thinking of stepping away from visiting for a little while because it was a horrendous experience. I have a friend from border control who has said this happens a lot and only happened to a couple of people the other day.

JoJo's restaurant in Herne Bay Road
JoJo's restaurant in Herne Bay Road

“I just want to put this behind me and run my business.”

The Home Office this week confirmed the investigation into Ms Billington is no longer continuing.

A spokesman said: “Following an investigation by immigration enforcement officers there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution into a suspected facilitation attempt at the Channel Tunnel on May 31.

“No further action will be taken against the three British nationals arrested at the time.”

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