A British drug smuggler who handed himself into police in Gibraltar last summer after swimming to the Rock from Spain has been jailed for over seven years in the UK.
Jason Waterman, from Watford in Hertfordshire, spent two years on the run in Spain but handed himself in following a high-profile media campaign to trace his whereabouts.
He was wanted in connection with the attempted importation of around seven kilos of cocaine worth around £1.2m at Bagby airfield near Thirsk in North Yorkshire in October 2015.
According to the UK National Crime Agency, the 33-year-old, whose nicknames include Jugs and Jumbo, had been on board an aircraft that had just landed on the airfield.
As Border Force officers arrived on the scene to carry out checks on the plane he ran off, leaving a suitcase containing the drugs in a nearby hedgerow.
National Crime Agency investigators began to track him down and following a series of media appeals in the Evening Standard, local papers in London and on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow he finally handed himself in to police in Gibraltar, dripping wet and carrying a bag of wet clothes in June 2017.
He later told officers he had been in Spain and swam across rather than walk over the land border.
Waterman was extradited back to the UK shortly afterwards to face drug importation charges, and on what would have been the first day of his trial at Bradford Crown Court on Monday 18 December he pleaded guilty.
A judge sentenced him to seven years and two months in prison.
NCA Branch Commander David Norris said: “Waterman fled the UK for more than a year and a half in an attempt to avoid this moment, so it gives us great satisfaction to see him behind bars.”
“It demonstrates that the NCA does not give up the hunt, and to everyone else feeling the stress of being on the run I would say we are patient people, we keep the pressure on, and we never stop looking for you.”
“This investigation drew on the combined skills of the NCA, North Yorkshire Police, Border Force and overseas partners. Working together we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and prosecute those involved in trafficking and organised crime.”
Following a trial in March 2017 the aircraft pilot who had flown Waterman to the UK from the Netherlands was found not guilty of importation offences.