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24 September 2014
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You are in: Inside Out > East Midlands > Maggot Pete - Behind the scenes

'Maggot Pete'. Photo - Derbyshire Police.

Peter Roberts aka 'Maggot Pete'.

Maggot Pete - Behind the scenes

Businessman Peter Roberts sold contaminated meat to schools, supermarkets and hospitals. BBC Inside Out tracked him down in Cyprus.

Behind the scenes diary

  • Read what happened when Inside Out East Midlands undertook their investigation.
  • Read Alistair Jackson's special web diary.

Peter Roberts was convicted of fraud in 2003 following a three month trial, but he fled Britain to avoid serving his prison sentence.

"The case exposed massive flaws in Britain's food industry, but for the police it was only half a result."

Alistair Jackson, BBC Inside Out

Roberts, also known as 'Maggot Pete', had been involved in a scam selling contaminated chicken to meat wholesalers from a plant in Denby, Derbyshire.

Denby Poultry Products was based in premises which were found to be rat-infested and sewage-ridden.

One million unfit chickens and turkeys were butchered by the firm.

Following a large scale investigation involving more than 100 police officers and around 50 local authority environmental health officers, the company's premises were raided following an anonymous tip-off.

But 'Maggot Pete' had already fled the country, and was to spend the next four years on the run.

TV Reporter Alistair Jackson tells the story of how BBC Inside Out tracked him down and helped to bring Roberts back to Britain where finally he is starting his six year prison sentence.  

Going undercover - Inside Out diary

"Peter Roberts' original trial back in 2003 has always lived long in my memory.

"Police officers, lawyers and journalists can sometimes have a "seen it all before" air - never shocked by unpalatable details that would provoke most members of the general public to run to the bathroom.

"But from the moment those horrendous pictures of Denby Poultry's rotten and diseased output were shown, the atmosphere in the courtroom was decidedly queasy.

"All of us could have eaten that meat and we knew it.

"During the three months it lasted we'd heard how Peter Roberts had built up the business in Derbyshire.

"His rotten chicken made him more money than dealing in hard drugs - more than £1 million.

"The case exposed massive flaws in Britain's food industry but for the police it was only half a result.

"Roberts never spent a day in court - he'd vanished.

"He was long gone by the time the judge gave him a six year sentence."

Tracking down Peter Roberts

"Four years later I am also feeling slightly unwell - Peter Roberts is once again responsible.

"This time I am sat 4,000 miles away from Denby in a derelict goat herder's shed where the 40 degree temperatures are helping to ferment a rather pungent smell created by some unspeakable reminders of the building's previous history.

"Myself and two colleagues are about 400 metres from the back of Peter Roberts' villa in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus.

Maggot Pete case

Maggot Pete and others in the case.

"Good fortune had played a significant part in helping us find Roberts.

"We'd flown to Cyprus and travelled into the Turkish republic in the north after a tip-off that Roberts may have settled there.

"It was likely as there is no extradition treaty with Britain.

"But we were still looking for one man in a population of 200,000.

"Handily the British community tends to live together.

"We'd found out his wife worked in a local estate agents.

"She'd let slip in which part of town her and Peter Roberts lived.

"But when one of our team suggested a stake out from what looked like a prehistoric toilet, I thought it was no time for jokes.

"In fact it was a perfect vantage point so I left him and our camera operator to it."

Undercover operation

"It was also vital the entrance to the estate was covered.

"I endured the hardship of the air conditioned 4 x 4 manfully.

"If journalism like this is ever considered glamorous, I'd suggest a word with this pair.

"Darren the Camera Operator is fastidious with his preparation for his shoots.

"But by sunset his crimson appearance suggested sun screen had been the one thing not in his bag.

"The shots of Peter Roberts emerging from his tidy little villa made Darren's pain worth it - at least from my point of view.

"After spotting Peter Roberts we broke free from the baking hot and smelly hide to follow him to his office.

"We decided that we would confront him the next day when he collected his morning paper."

Brief encounter

"He wasn't pleased to see us.

"After our brief confrontation we decided it best to leave Famagusta, the town where Roberts had been hiding.

"Local contacts told us afterwards Peter Roberts is well connected to some serious criminals who are involved in importing illegal drugs to the UK.

Maggot Pete

Maggot Pete found in Cyprus.

"Our time in Northern Cyprus then turned more bizarre as we were asked to meet people describing themselves as members of the Turkish secret service.

"Concerned that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus would be portrayed as a haven for British criminals, they wanted to tell us all the UK had to do was to ask for Roberts to be returned to Britain and it would happen.

"Our meeting was relatively good natured although it did conclude with an anonymous voice on the end of a mobile phone's speaker phone suddenly announcing "no more questions".

"We'd found Peter Roberts but knew it was time to leave the rest to the spooks more used to the line of work we'd briefly taken up.

"But after four weeks without any news from Northern Cyprus it looked like Peter Roberts was still safe from the UK prison he feared. 

"Foreign Office officials repeated the line that the UK didn’t deal with Northern Cyprus so couldn’t ask for his return."

In the dock 

"Then – out of the blue – we were told he was being flown back to Stansted Airport that night. The next day he was in the dock at Derby Crown Court. 

"After four years in the Cyprus sun it took just a few minutes for the judge to confirm his original six year jail sentence. 

"It seemed that -  finally - the possibility of Robert’s pleasant ex-pat life being exposed was just too much for the authorities to ignore,  whatever this country’s relationship with Northern Cyprus." 

Also featured

Ray Gosling goes in the footsteps of Leicester playwright Joe Orton.  Plus the Music Festival trying to clean up its act.

last updated: 19/09/07

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