Fugitive UK drug trafficker held
One of Britain's most wanted fugitives - a convicted drug trafficker who headed a gang that supplied huge amounts of heroin - has been arrested in Tenerife.
Stephen Blundell, of Leathers Lane, Liverpool, was held on a European Arrest Warrant when he handed himself in to the Spanish authorities at a police station in Tenerife on Monday, the National Crime Agency said.
The 36-year-old pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin but fled to Spain before he could be sentenced in April 2013. He was later jailed for nine years eight months in his absence.
Extradition proceedings will begin tomorrow when Blundell appears at the Spanish National Court in Madrid.
Blundell's group, which included a Cornish grandmother caught transporting £50,000 of heroin under pasties in her shopping bag, supplied huge amounts of heroin to the south west of England.
He is the 64th fugitive to be located out of 76 publicised through Operation Captura, a multi-agency initiative between Crimestoppers, the National Crime Agency and the Spanish authorities. He featured in the Captura "unlucky thirteen" campaign launched in November 2013.
Devon and Cornwall Police targeted Blundell as part of an 18-month long investigation into the supply of heroin from Merseyside into areas such as Bodmin, Exeter, Tiverton and Torquay. The other members of his group received sentences totalling 77 years.
Detective Constable Jason Braund, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "Inquiries revealed Blundell was hiding in Tenerife and we are now working closely with the National Crime Agency to ensure he is returned to the UK to serve his sentence.
"We will continue to hunt down those that abscond from justice whether they be here or overseas.
"The dismantling of Blundell's drug network highlights we will not tolerate the supply of drugs in our communities and will continue to make Devon and Cornwall a safer place to live."
Hank Cole, head of international operations for the NCA, said: "Blundell would have been constantly looking over his shoulder after his mugshot appeared across Spain as part of the Captura 'unlucky thirteen' campaign.
"It was only a matter of time before he was caught as the Spanish National Police had been carrying out intelligence-led operations in Tenerife. The law enforcement net was tightening and I believe he handed himself in when he realised his days on the run were numbered."
"We will continue to work with our partners to pursue fugitives wherever they are on the world. Spain is not a safe haven. Sixty four fugitives have been caught since Captura was launched, and many more linked to other operations."