The North East’s most wanted fugitive Brian Thexton has been caught after police surrounded a building in Cumbria.
The 37-year-old, from Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, was part of a gang that used stolen fork lift trucks to smash cash machines out of walls across in Durham, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Scotland in 2005 and 2006.
Until recently he had been thought to be on the run in Spain, but only days after being named among the National Crime Agency’s 13 most wanted he resurfaced in the North West.
He escaped from a police officer near Lancaster, but on Tuesday he was arrested shortly before 8pm at an isolated property near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.
Detective Superintendent Andrew Slattery said: “Detectives from Cumbria Constabulary have worked hard with other police forces in the North of England over recent weeks to track down and arrest Thexton. After a uniformed policing operation he was detained without incident at an isolated rural property.
“We would like to thank the community of North Cumbria for their support and can assure them that our county is not and will not become a safe haven for organised criminals.”
Thexton’s life of crime began in 1999 when he plundered a marquee at Hexham Horse Trials, in Northumberland, when the young thief was just 25. He was jailed for five years after a jury convicted him of theft and taking a vehicle without consent.
In 2007, Thexton was then jailed for six years after he admitted being part of the Hole in the Wall Gang, which made off with £350,000 cash and caused £120,000 worth of damage in raids across the North. Dozens of high value cars, tractors and trailers, vans, lorries and bulldozers, as well as two-way radios, were also stolen in the months leading upto the crimes – bringing the total bill to more than £1m.
Thexton was also accused of being involved in late night robberies at isolated properties, where the owners were bound with cable ties and forced to reveal alarm codes and safe combinations.
During one robbery, the assailants armed themselves with a pickaxe handle and baseball bat and pretented to be police officers to convince the homeowner to open the door.
He was also awaiting trial accused of conspiracy to supply drugs after it was alleged that he was the middleman in a transaction to buy half a kilo of high purity cocaine – but police believed he had fled to Spain to escape prosecution.
But he was spotted on November 15 when a police officer in Lancaster pulled over a white Vauxhall Insignia.
He pulled away, dragging the police officer for a short distance, but the renewed appeal for him led to this week’s arrest.