'Most wanted' man gets 20 years

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The armed robber Wayne Black, who became the most wanted man in Britain after escaping from custody during his trial, was yesterday jailed for 20 years at the Old Bailey.

Black was recaptured by armed police last week after five weeks on the run. He had slipped his handcuffs and held a home-made knife to a prison officer's throat as he was being returned from the Old Bailey to Belmarsh high-security jail. He leapt from the prison van in Rotherhithe, south- east London, during the evening rush hour and disappeared.

In his absence, the jury unanimously convicted him of robbery, firearms offences, kidnapping and conspiracy. Police hunting for him described him as the most wanted man in Britain and warned the public not to approach him.

When he was arrested at a house in Southend, Black had a .45 pistol, 50 rounds of ammunition and body armour. He put up no resistance.

Yesterday, armed police patrolled the court as Black, who will be 27 today, appeared in the dock surrounded by prison officers.

Passing sentence, Judge Geoffrey Grigson told Black, of Stoke Newington, north-east London: "It's plain that you are a professional criminal and in exercising that profession you are both ruthless and dangerous."

Black, a powerfully built six-footer, had previously been on the run from a three-year sentence he received in 1988 for handling. He fled to Portugal where he stabbed a man during a robbery and was jailed for seven years, later reduced to four.

When he returned to Britain he raided a north London jeweller's with another man. Its keyholder, Paulette Marston, her widowed mother and a male friend were all taken hostage while the two took pounds 200,000 worth of stock.

Six months later they planned to hold the manageress of another jeweller's hostage, strap a fake bomb to her wrist and threaten to explode it unless her boss opened his shop. But their intended victim fought back and armed police, who had been tailing the pair after an underworld tip-off, arrested them.