Police moved in to arrest 51-year-old Mr Noye, property developer, Brinks- Mat money launderer and multi-millionaire, as he was dining with his new girlfriend at Barbate's El Campero restaurant. As waiter Rodrigo Iglesias approached with a bottle of rioja, so did a team of armed detectives.
Mr Noye and his companion did not get a chance to finish their meal of tuna, red mullet and gilthead, a local delicacy. The restaurant owner, Jose Melero,41, who was left with an unpaid bill of 7,000 pesetas (pounds 28) recalled: " It was all over in 30 seconds. There was no shouting or a struggle. The burly foreign man was thrown to the ground. The police kneeled on him and handcuffed him behind his back. Then four of the officers bundled him into a car and they went off."
Mr Iglesias said: "The officers flashed their warrant badges and warned everyone to stay back. The other customers were shocked, baffled. The arrested man's girlfriend sat still for a few seconds, she seemed to be trying to get back her composure. She then went to the toilet, came back after a couple of minutes and vanished into the night."
It was the vanishing of Mr Noye, known and liked locally as " Mick the Builder", which was the talk of the town yesterday. The wealthy Briton had recently bought himself a pounds 330,000 villa in the fishing village of Zahara de los Atunes. One of his neighbours this summer was Spain's hardline minister of the interior, Jaime Mayor Oreja.
Rosario Alvarez, 27, who runs the La Sal restaurant on the nearby beach said sadly: "He was a caballero - a true gentleman. He ate here often with his girlfriend. He was also here with a woman he introduced as his wife, and two lads in their 20s he said were his sons. His girlfriend said he had been buying up and selling houses."
The British government now has 40 days to submit a request to the Spanish authorities for Mr Noye's extradition. Mr Noye's legal representatives are expected to object and it will be up to courts in Madrid to decide whether there is enough evidence to justify his expulsion.
If and when he does return, Mr Noye is expected to be charged with the murder of 21-year-old Stephen Cameron, of Swanley, Kent, who was knifed to death in May 1996 in what was thought at first to be a "road-rage" attack by the driver of dark-coloured Land-Rover Discovery.
Over the last couple of years, reports of Mr Noye's whereabouts have ranged from northern Cyprus - where he was said to have played golf with the fugitive tycoon, Asil Nadir - to Portugal, Dubai, Argentina and Russia.
It was even claimed that he had been flitting in and out of Britain, visiting his former haunts in south London under the noses of investigating detectives.
The crucial breakthrough for police came when officers from the elite National Crime Intelligence Service, helping Kent Police, traced money passing through a Spanish bank account used by Mr Noye. Tapped telephone calls narrowed down the hunt; detectives were dispatched to begin covert surveillance; and at 10.24pm on Friday, the trap was sprung.Reuse content