Jamie Acourt: 'Most wanted' man arrested in Barcelona

Jamie Acourt, while in police custody in Spain Image copyright NCA
Image caption Jamie Acourt, pictured in police custody in Spain, faces an extradition hearing

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives, Jamie Acourt, has been captured in Spain on suspicion of drug offences.

A Spanish police source told the BBC that the 41-year-old from south London had used false identities to evade capture for two years.

Mr Acourt, who was wanted by police investigating the large-scale supply of drugs, was arrested in Barcelona on Friday.

On Saturday he was remanded in custody by a Spanish high court judge.

He appeared in front of the judge in Madrid via video-link from Barcelona.

A former suspect in Stephen Lawrence's murder in 1993, Mr Acourt has always denied any involvement in the killing.

Armed officers detained Mr Acourt after he left the Metropolitan Sagrada Familia Gym in the Spanish city on Friday afternoon.

He was arrested as part of operation Captura, a joint effort by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Metropolitan Police and Spanish National Police.

A senior Spanish police source told the BBC police believe Mr Acourt had taken "great care" and "plenty of security measures" to avoid getting caught.

"He had protection. He had help. He didn't live a normal, relaxing life. He was using false identities, false names," the source said.

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Media captionJamie Acourt was led away in handcuffs from a gym in Barcelona, witness Simon McDonald told the BBC's Tom Burridge

Police believe Mr Acourt was using four or five different branches of the Metropolitan chain of gyms in Barcelona.

The BBC understands from a source at the gym that he had been a member at the one near the Sagrada Familia cathedral for "a long time" and he was seen there on a regular basis.

Police said he was moving around Spain and spending time in "places where a tourist could disappear".

Recently, police believe he had been living in Barcelona.

The investigation to find him took years and was a close collaboration between Spanish National Police and the NCA.

When arrested he told police he was an Italian tourist, according to the source.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jamie Acourt at the 1998 public inquiry into the killing of Stephen Lawrence

Mr Acourt was last seen in the UK on 1 February 2016, in the Eltham area and was known to visit south-west London and areas of Surrey.

A spokesman for the Met said: "The European Arrest Warrant was issued as part of the Met's efforts to trace Mr Acourt in relation to an investigation into the unlawful supply of controlled substances.

"This relates to an investigation launched in 2016 by detectives from the Serious and Organised Crime Command.

"Extradition proceedings now await."

Steve Reynolds, the NCA's regional head of international operations, told Radio 4's Today Programme that many fugitives "believe they can hide in plain sight" among Spain's large British community.

Mr Reynolds said Mr Acourt's extradition is likely to take "days or weeks rather than months".

Mr Acourt will appear at court in Madrid early next week for an extradition hearing.

Spanish police confirmed Mr Accourt had been refused bail by a high court judge and transferred to a prison ahead of the hearing.

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