Inside rise and fall of one-legged drugs kingpin Richard Wakeling who went on run to Thailand | The SunJune 5, 2023
A ONE-legged drugs kingpin who went on the run to Thailand and was caught living in a beachside town was finally jailed on Saturday.
Richard Wakeling, 55, from Brentwood, Essex, had been wanted by the UK authorities since 2018.
Wakeling was convicted of drug trafficking over an £8 million cross-Channel drugs smuggling operation in 2016, but fled the UK on the eve of his trial.
So how did the fugitive, who has a prosthetic right leg and needs regular medical treatment, avoid facing justice for five years?
The National Crime Agency began its investigation into Wakeling's organised crime group after Border Force workers stopped a truck boarding a Channel Tunnel train in April 2016.
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Officials caught his lorry driver Lesley Muffett, 59, on their X-ray system at the UK border and an investigation also revealed Darren Keane, 34, and Stuart Davidson, 65, were involved.
The truck contained plastic drums carrying £8million worth of liquid amphetamine.
The driver was transporting furniture from Italy but stopped at Ternat in Belgium where phone evidence showed he was directed to collect the drugs.
The entire importation was set up by Wakeling, according to the NCA.
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He was in contact with drug suppliers in the Netherlands and liaised with two other UK offenders to arrange the journey.
Officers believe the crime group had organised at least six other importations before the 2016 seizure.
Wakeling absconded before his 12-week trial began and was jailed in his absence at Chelmsford Crown Court in April 2018.
ON THE RUN
Wakeling had ditched his home in Brentwood on the eve of his 2018 trial for the botched drug deal.
At around 9.45am on January 5, he drove off in a white Audi Q3 with the registration number EF66 ZWR.
The car was later spotted in Iver, Buckinghamshire, just under 10 miles from Heathrow. From there he caught a bus to Glasgow.
The next day he took a ferry from Stranrear, around 90 miles south west of Glasgow, to Belfast.
And a week later on January 13 Wakeling's car was driven back to his Essex pad.
The NCA released CCTV in 2019 showing the last known movements of Wakeling and appealed for help tracing him.
NCA Operations Manager Paul Green said: "Wakeling has been on the run for well over a year now and knows we are still looking for him.
"He should also know we will do everything in our power to bring him back to serve his sentence.
"I would urge him to hand himself in. I've no doubt someone seeing this appeal will have information about his whereabouts."
Mr Green added: "Anyone helping Wakeling or actively frustrating our efforts to find him could be arrested for assisting an offender."
CAUGHT RED HANDED
In February 2023 Officers from the Royal Thai Police arrested Wakeling at a Bangkok garage as he went to collect his car after it had been repaired.
At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of a passport with another identity.
Wakeling, who also has links to Ireland, Canada and Spain, had been living in the beachside town of Hua Hin.
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Wakeling arrived back in the country on Thursday evening and appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday afternoon.
He was immediately jailed for 11 years after being convicted in his absence.
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