Page last updated at 01:46 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Catching criminals on the Costa

By Ben Ando
Crime correspondent, BBC News

Andrew Alderman and Andrew Snelgrove
Andrew Alderman (left) and Andrew Snelgrove are included on the list

British police have launched an operation to track down criminals on the run on the Costa Blanca. How does it work and what is the reaction of law-abiding UK expats in Spain?

November in El Campello on Spain's Costa Blanca is hardly high season.

The beaches are quiet - the only vessels at sea are fishing boats and, on the horizon, ferries serving the neighbouring port at Alicante.

But CJ's bar on the sea front has a busy lunchtime crowd, a loyal clientele of expats who come here to meet and chat with other Britons and to enjoy the sausage and mash or egg and chips they miss.

It is just the place for Crimestoppers to launch Operation Captura, putting up posters and handing out beer mats to publicise a new drive to track down unwanted criminals thought to be hiding in Spain.

"We were blown away by the response last time," explains Crimestoppers' Hannah Daws.

"The expats here really don't want to have these people living among them and the beauty with Crimestoppers is that it's totally anonymous so no one will ever know the tip-off came from them."

Wanted list

Of the 30 criminals featured in the first Operation Captura two years ago, 13 are now back in custody.

Among them are convicted killer James Hurley, who had been on the run for over a decade, and escaped robber Clifford Hobbs.

Andrew Arthur Alderman, 49
Thomas Cochran, 50
Alan McDonald Gordon, 46
Adam Hart, 29
Dennis Hunter, 57
Anthony Kearney, 43
Donna McCafferty, 41
Dean Lawrence Rice, 47
Shashi Dhar Sahnan, 51
Andrew Mark Snelgrove, 45
Full details on Crimestoppers website

Among the 10 faces on the new list are convicted paedophile Andrew Alderman, 49; drug dealer suspect Adam Hart, 29, who went on the run after escaping from police; Dean Rice, 47, wanted for kidnap and false imprisonment, and Anthony Kearney, 43, who is accused of extortion, perverting the course of justice and fraud. He is known to use as many as nine aliases.

Andrew Snelgrove, 45, is accused of attempted murder, wounding with intent and possession of a firearm in 1999.

The full list can be found on the Crimestoppers website, with photographs of each of the wanted criminals and freephone numbers that can be called from both the UK and Spain.

The list is prepared by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and those on it are subject to European Arrest Warrants.

Introduced in 2004, these drastically reduce paperwork and make extradition a matter of weeks, not years.

Bill Hughes, director of Soca says he has a strong message for those on the run abroad.

"These criminals seem to gravitate to warmer climes and think they can sit back and relax and enjoy their money," he said.

"That's not the case. We are determined to seize their assets and bring them back to face trial, or be returned to prison, in the proper way.

"The majority of people, honest, trustworthy people, don't want to see these individuals profit from their criminality when they should actually be facing up to justice."

Sunshine sanctuary

A Costa Blanca resort also popular with Britons is Torrevieja.

At a hypermarket on the edge of town, some of the photographs are shown to British shoppers. There was little sympathy for those on the run.

"Why should they get away with things?" asked one woman.

"We try to live a good life and why shouldn't everyone else?"

Clifford Hobbs
Escaped robber Clifford Hobbs was caught in the first Operation Captura

Another believes criminals on the Costa probably think they can go unrecognised, and believes putting the pictures online, or on beer mats, is a good way to generate calls.

One woman did say that she would not turn someone in if she thought "they'd stolen something from a British bank" but did admit that she would ring in with information about drug dealers and paedophiles on the list.

Any information that is received will be forwarded to Spanish police, who will make the actual arrests with Soca officers present in an advisory role only, or to act as translators.

Anyone taken into custody would be transported to Madrid for a short court hearing before being formally handed over to the British authorities.

But Soca admits that criminals are already getting the message that Spain is no longer the sunshine sanctuary it once was.

They are now turning their attention to other destinations, such as Dubai, to try to evade the ever-lengthening long arm of the law.

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