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Suspected paedo wanted by police arrested in France after car crash

Stephen Carruthers
Stephen Carruthers

A suspected paedophile who went on the run and became one of Britain's most wanted fugitives has been arrested in France after crashing his car, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Stephen Carruthers, 43, from Bury, was wanted by Cumbria Police on suspicion of 18 offences of making indecent photographs of a child.

Carruthers, who featured in a most wanted fugitives campaign run by the NCA and Crimestoppers, was living in a cottage in Saint-Denis-Catus and is believed to have been using a false name, according to the NCA.

He was admitted to Cahors Hospital with minor injuries on Saturday and was kept in for observations, and subsequent checks by the French authorities on the EU law enforcement database revealed his real identity.

After officers executed a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) at the hospital, Carruthers appeared before the general prosecutor of the appeal court of Agen where he was remanded in custody.

Extradition proceedings are now under way and his next hearing is on Wednesday, the NCA said.

Matt Burton, head of the NCA's International Crime Bureau, said: "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 the EAW. Now after being at large for nearly three years he will be returned to the UK to face justice."

Carruthers was originally arrested in March 2014 at an address in Ambleside, and a computer recovered was found to contain 5,332 indecent images of children.

The NCA said the most serious of the images showed contact sexual abuse.

After being interviewed he was given bail to re-attend the police station but failed to return.

Carruthers is the 79th fugitive to be arrested out of 96 publicised through Operation Captura.

Lord Ashcroft, founder and chairman of Crimestoppers, 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."