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On-the-run Coleraine drug dealer Mark Dunford arrested in Spain

By Staff Reporter

Published 06/07/2016

Charges: Mark Dunford
Charges: Mark Dunford

A drug dealer on the run for more than a year is due back in Northern Ireland today after being arrested in Spain.

Former gym owner Mark Dunford, originally from Waterford but with an address in Coleraine, was due to sentenced over a huge drug haul found in 2012 when he fled the country.

Police said that Dunford, who admitted supplying amphetamine, was arrested on Saturday. A spokesman added: “He will now appear at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court and a date for his sentencing will be set”.

Dunford moved to the north-west around six years ago and set up Coleraine’s Atlas Gym, which is now under new management.

He used the business to cover his involvement in the drugs trade, making so much money along the way that he moved to a sprawling mansion.

His double life was exposed in September 2012 when he was arrested in a sting by detectives who monitored his associates as they moved amphetamines from England to Northern Ireland.

On September 28 that year, police stopped a car driven by 41-year-old Robert Holmes, a key member of the gang, and found £200,000 of speed inside.

Keys discovered in a second vehicle led cops to a Ford Transit van in which they unearthed £180,000 of amphetamine in an  oven. The driver of the car told police he was ordered to collect the oven by Dunford.

Analysis of phone records connected the gym boss to both drugs stashes.

It later emerged that a mobile used by Holmes travelled with Dunford on a trip to England. Cops believe it was on this journey that he organised a £200,000 speed deal.

Dunford was charged but eventually made bail and in July 2014 had his electronic tag removed so he could go on holiday.

Holmes, from Glenone Villas in Portglenone, admitted possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail, with a further 15 months on supervised licence once released.

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