Married speedboat killer Jack Shepherd was in a romantic relationship with a glamorous TV journalist while on the run in Georgia, the Mail can reveal.
The father-of-one wined and dined Maiko Tchanturidze for months. He is understood to have given her his version of what happened to his 24-year-old victim Charlotte Brown.
Miss Tchanturidze, also 24, encouraged the 31-year-old killer to hand himself in and was with him when he was driven to the police station.
The amateur model sat by Shepherd’s side on Wednesday night when he told a Georgian TV station that Miss Brown’s death was a ‘tragic accident’.
Shepherd married his unnamed fiancee just two months after killing Miss Brown. It is thought she was pregnant at the time of the death. She is now raising their child, three, alone. His wife threw him out after discovering he had cheated on her.
Last night a source told the Mail of the Georgian romance: ‘They have become close in recent months and have made no secret of their relationship.
‘Maiko is very supportive of him and feels that he has been treated unfairly by the British legal system. But it got to the point when she felt that he could no longer live as a fugitive and had to hand himself in. She wanted to be with him when he did it, so he had someone to support him.’
Miss Tchanturidze, right, encouraged 31-year-old Jack Shepherd, left, to hand himself in and was with him when he was driven to the police station
Finally in the dock: Shepherd shakes hands with his lawyer, former model Mariam Kublashvili, in Tbilisi yesterday
Smile: Miss Tchanturidze in photo posted on Facebook. She was raised in the city of Kutaisi in the west of Georgia and moved to the capital Tbilisi to embark on a TV career
Miss Tchanturidze was raised in the city of Kutaisi in the west of Georgia and moved to the capital Tbilisi to embark on a TV career.
She worked for one of the main TV networks called Rustavi 2 before moving to an organisation called Europe for Georgia last year.
The journalist has also worked at Bassiani – a controversial techno club favoured by men in latex which Shepherd was fond of.
Photo shoot: The TV journalist poses online
Her Facebook page is littered with glamorous photographs of herself – including some provocative poses.
Others show her in European cities, including Rome, Istanbul, Hamburg and Salzburg.
During their romance, Shepherd worked as a computer designer and web designer in Tbilisi.
He opened a Georgian bank account where he received payment for the work.
It remains unclear how he met Miss Tchanturidze but has previously used internet dating.
Shepherd, who is originally from Exeter, Devon was on a first date with Miss Brown after meeting through the OkCupid website, when he killed her in December 2015.
During his time on the run he took to the ski slopes of Georgia and was seen dining with a blonde English woman at a restaurant in Tbilisi twice two months ago.
Shepherd was also spotted enjoying some of Tbilisi’s most popular nightclubs and bars.
Last night Miss Tchanturidze refused to comment on the relationship. She said: ‘I’m not going to talk about it – I’m sorry.
It is understood Justice Secretary David Gauke has asked the agency, which is overseen by his ministry, to get to the bottom of the legitimacy of the claim. Applications for criminal legal aid are subject to strict assessments of an individual’s financial circumstances, including with credit check agencies.
Anyone found to have deliberately moved assets to qualify for legal aid will be ordered to pay back the money granted.
After the Mail raised concerns about Shepherd’s eligibility for help, the agency began a probe into funding for his defence in the crown courts.
Funding for his appeal is determined by the Court of Appeal, which can recover costs of a case at its conclusion if an individual is believed to be able to pay.
Shepherd was convicted of killing 24-year-old Charlotte Brown (pictured) during a speedboat date on the Thames
Under a European Court of Human Rights precedent, being on the run is no bar to an appeal.
The Ministry of Justice is also understood to have notified the Court of Appeal about reports of Shepherd’s resources.
Legal aid is not available for those fighting extradition cases overseas.
A Whitehall source said: ‘It is possible he applied perfectly legitimately but the fact that he is paying for lawyers in Georgia suggests he might have private funds. It could be that someone is bankrolling him but this raises further questions and it’s right the Legal Aid Agency investigates.
‘If he is found to have secured the money by deceit, and he is thumbing his nose at justice, we will claw it back.’
There was outrage when it emerged that despite being a fugitive Shepherd was exploiting a loophole to claim even more legal aid to fund an appeal.
The case echoes that of a rogue breast cancer surgeon who received £216,000 in legal aid – despite building a property empire.