The strange case of the drug baron's adoring press

Why is Curtis Warren written up as a modern-day Scarlet Pimpernel when he is always being caught?

Curtis Francis Warren is a very wealthy man. He has homes on three continents, a yacht, his own biographer, looks much younger than his 46 years, and once even made it on to the Sunday Times Rich List. "A major property player and trader in the North-west, where he is a well-known figure", read the citation. Warren did not make his money from real estate. He made it from cocaine. And heroin. And cannabis. And ecstasy. And from the poor suckers who wrecked their lives by taking them.

Not that you would guess this from some of the press he's had down the years, up to and including that which accompanied his conviction last Wednesday for plotting to flood Jersey with cannabis. For Warren has long been coloured by that curious phenomenon, gangster chic – the glamorising and mythologising of those the rest of us deem, well, toe-rags.

Partly, it's a matter of headlines, such as "The Mr Bigs' Mr Big" (The Observer, 13 July 1997). Partly, it's the nicknames: "Cocky", they call him in his native Toxteth, and "Cocky" he is to his chroniclers, a band of men who also relish his one-time Interpol designation "Target One". And it's partly the way the media have competed to big-up his fortune, the top estimate stands at a ludicrous £460m.

The press makes him sound like a cross between Moriarty and the Scarlet Pimpernel. The Daily Mail, for instance, on Thursday: "... never takes unnecessary risks... does not waste money on gambling or women... doesn't smoke, drink, or take drugs... never commits anything to paper... never forgets... changes his mobile daily... never loses his cool... mind never stops... fearsome reputation...."

So, a super-brained mastermind, the elusive scourge of law enforcement? Not quite, as a chronology of his convictions and detentions shows. They began, in 1974, shortly after he abandoned school at the age of 11, with the theft of a car (juvenile court, supervision order); at 13, he graduated to the magistrates' court, for burglary; at 15, he got three months in a detention centre; before rounding off his teens with borstal for assaulting police, an arrest during the Toxteth riots and, finally, in 1982, after blackmailing a prostitute and her client, two years for assaulting the woman.

In 1983, he got five years for armed robbery, then took up drug trafficking. He forged a trusted relationship with the South American Cali cartel and began to make serious money, enjoying his longest spell at large. That lasted until 1992, when he was nicked for trying to bring into Britain £150m of cocaine inside ingots of lead.

A year later he walked free on a technicality. He returned to Liverpool, where the drug gangs began sorting out a few differences. The feuding saw 10 fatal shootings, and, another victim so set about with machetes that the post-mortem took seven hours to work out what went where. Warren moved to Holland, for his health, buying a home near Schiphol airport. After three years, Warren – very much a marked, followed and surveillanced man – made another error. A plan to import £125m worth of drugs through ingots, as in 1993, was rumbled, and one night in 1996 – much to his surprise and that of his Ukrainian prostitute companion – Dutch special services roared in with stun grenades. He was convicted and served 11 years. (He would have got out sooner, except that, during an exercise-yard fracas, he kicked a fellow inmate to death.)

He was released in 2007 and began planning the Jersey job. Within a month he was rearrested. He will be sentenced on Christmas Eve, and is expected to get about 14 years. By then he will be 60, having spent 30 years behind bars. So, there's not much reason to be cocky, is there "Cocky"? You are our kind of master criminal: slightly colourful, and with a talent for getting caught.

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried