Her husband served alongside Montgomery’s Desert Rats during the Second World War.
And his grandfather had emigrated from Hackney in East London to help establish the British colony of Rhodesia in the 19th century.
So when frail Lydia Werrett’s ancestral family farm was seized by Robert Mugabe’s thugs, and their death threats forced her to flee Zimbabwe, she felt sure she would find sanctuary in Britain.
Instead, the 88-year-old has been issued with a threat of deportation – even though one of Mugabe’s torturers has been allowed to stay here because of fears it would breach his human rights to deport him.
The case of HIV-positive Phillip Machemedze, 47, previously revealed by one paper, involved an immigration tribunal ruling that his ‘crimes against humanity’ involved inflicting horrific injuries on enemies of Mugabe – including smashing a man’s jaw and tearing out a tooth with pliers.
His other victims included an opposition farmer who was given electric shocks and punched unconscious, and a woman who was stripped naked in a dungeon then whipped, before he rubbed salt in her wounds.
Machemedze admitted he ‘initially enjoyed his job’ in the feared Central Intelligence Organisation.
In spite of his vile crimes, in May an immigration judge accepted his claim to have turned against Mugabe, and to be at risk of torture himself if he returned. So he was allowed to stay here.
Last week, it emerged that Machemedze, of Bristol, had repaid Britain’s generosity by working illegally for years. At Bristol Crown Court he admitted obtaining £150,000 by deception, but was told he was likely to avoid jail when sentenced.
The kid-glove treatment given to the torturer contrasts starkly with the case of Mrs Werrett, who has 18 grandchildren. Homeless after her small cattle and maize farm near Bulawayo had been seized – because of its ancestral origins as a colonial property – she fled Zimbabwe in 2003, with only the clothes she stood up in and one suitcase.
She flew here on a tourist visa to stay with her daughter Sophie Laubscher, 60, in Folkestone, Kent. Mrs Werrett soon made an application for ‘exceptional leave to remain’ – but a huge backlog of asylum cases meant it was years before the Home Office resolved her case.
Then, this August, she got a bombshell letter, from the UK Border Agency, threatening to send her straight back to Zimbabwe.
‘Your case has now been fully reviewed, and the outcome is that you have no basis to stay in the UK,’ the letter said. ‘You should make arrangements to leave the UK without delay. Should you fail to do so your removal may be enforced.’
Mrs Werrett said her late husband Bob Werrett had driven ammunition trucks while serving with Field Marshal Montgomery in Egypt. His family had been in Africa since his grandfather, John Werrett, left Britain in the 19th century, moved to what was then Rhodesia, and had children with an African woman.
She said his part in establishing the colony was so significant that his name was inscribed on a monument to Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia – although the monument has since been desecrated by Mugabe’s supporters.
Mrs Werrett said: ‘We grew up under the British flag all our lives. My late husband was in the Army and fought in the Second World War.
‘We feel we are entitled to stay here with our people that will look after us. If I did return to Zimbabwe I would go back to nothing – nothing at all.’
Mrs Laubscher, who herself fled to Britain with her husband Johannes, 64, in 2000, said that if deported her elderly mother would face questioning by the Mugabe regime.
Mrs Laubscher, who is shortly due to receive British citizenship after years of waiting, said: ‘I don’t even think my mother would survive the flight back to Zimbabwe. She is a genuine old lady – let her rest just for her last years.’
Mrs Werrett’s campaign to receive discretionary leave to remain in Britain has won support from Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins, who is lobbying the UK Border Agency.
Mr Collins said: ‘I think we have to have a degree of compassion and say, “What good does it serve to send an 88-year-old lady back on her own to Zimbabwe when she could stay here with her family?”’
A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said Mrs Werrett’s claims of persecution in Zimbabwe had been ‘fully considered’, but it was decided ‘she was not in need of international protection’. A final decision on her appeal would be made soon, they added.
This must cost the British taxpayers billions every year in housing, benefits, health care etc etc but then again that will be why they travel through so many safe countries to get here!