One the UK’s most wanted criminals has been arrested in France after being caught up in a road traffic accident, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has revealed.
Alleged paedophile Stephen Carruthers went on the run after police found 5,332 indecent images of children on his computer in 2014. Carruthers was added to the NCA’s Most Wanted list after failing to answer bail.
He was admitted to hospital on Saturday after suffering minor injuries in a crash that took place close to his hide-out in Saint-Denis-Catus. Checks carried out by French police revealed his true identity, resulting his arrest and subsequent appearance in court.
An extradition hearing which is likely to result in his return to the UK is due to get underway next Wednesday.
Matt Burton, chief of the NCA’s International Crime Bureau, commented: “The majority of our most wanted fugitives are captured as a result of intelligence-led operations, but with Carruthers his days on the run ended thanks to a huge slice of luck.
“Following the car crash, the French authorities carried out checks that revealed his real identity and enabled them to execute [a European arrest warrant]. Now after being at large for nearly three years he will be returned to the UK to face justice.”
Carruthers is the 79th suspect to be arrested out of a list of 96 fugitives publicised through Operation Captura.
Now in its 10th year, the initiative is designed to encourage members of the public to report sightings of Britain’s most wanted criminals, many of whom were suspected of having fled the UK to hideout in countries across Europe. The majority of those arrested so far have been apprehended in Spain.
Fugitives on the list who have yet to be caught include Mark Quinn, who is suspected of being a senior member of an organised crime group that produced and sold amphetamines with a street value of over £11 million (€12.58 million) in the north of England. Dominic McInally is another high-ranking drug gang member who remains at large. McInally is said to have headed up a cocaine trafficking gang that made £1.25 million every month.
Perhaps the most notorious criminal on the list who has yet to be caught, Jamie Acourt is suspected of being a key member of an organised crime group involved in the large-scale supply of cannabis. Acourt was one of the men suspected of the racially-motivated murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
Commenting on the arrest of Carruthers, Michael Ashcroft, Chair of Crimestoppers, the charity behind Operation Captura, said: “There are still 17 fugitives on the list, many of whom continue to pose a threat to the UK as well as the communities where they hide. They rarely cease their criminal activity once they’re on the run, which is why we pursue them.”