Knight basks in the media glow as drama enters its final act: Fugitive refused bail on charges relating to pounds 6m robbery. Ian MacKinnon reports

THE APPEARANCE at Bow Street magistrates' court in London yesterday of Ronnie Knight - former fugitive on the Costa del Sol, former husband of the Carry On star Barbara Windsor - after 11 years on the run, appeared to herald the final act of one of the most enduring tabloid sagas.

But if his remand in custody for a week on charges of robbery and receiving stolen money, in connection with the pounds 6m Security Express theft in east London in 1983 - really was the beginning of the end, the curtain- raiser was entirely fitting.

The front page of yesterday's Sun newspaper, under a 'world exclusive' tag and the headline, END OF THE RUN RON], depicted a smiling Mr Knight, 60, being arrested by Detective Inspector Reid McGeorge of Scotland Yard as he stepped from an aircraft at Luton airport.

Over the next four pages, and the paper's centre spread, it transpires that it was through the good offices of the Sun that Mr Knight was delivered into the arms of the law after the 2 1/2 - hour flight from Granada, southern Spain, in a private jet.

The newspaper, at Mr Knight's request, had told police of the time and place of his arrival. But if the colour pictures showing him swigging champagne and tearfully saying farewell to his wife, Sue, in Spain, are anything to go by, he used his final hours of freedom to the full.

For the privilege, the Sun is reputed to have paid pounds 185,000 in a deal cut by Kelvin Mackenzie, until recently the newspaper's editor and now managing director of another Rupert Murdoch media arm, Sky Television. Of course, its cameras were also on board the aircraft.

The carefully choreographed flight to captivity was not without its hitches. Det Insp McGeorge nearly managed to get the wrong man when he first tried to arrest Mr Knight's agent, Barrie Tracey, tanned with greying hair like the accused, and wearing a similar lightweight suit. Yesterday, at a 20-minute hearing at which reporting restrictions were lifted, the stipendiary magistrate, Ronald Bartle, sitting alone in the court in the heart of Theatreland, refused Mr Knight's application for bail. Reginald Mays, for the prosecution, opposed the application, saying there was concern that he would fail to appear again, and fears of interference with witnesses.

Mr Mays said it was alleged that Mr Knight was involved in the 'very carefully planned' raid in Shoreditch on 4 April, 1983. Staff arriving for work were confronted by armed men who bound and gagged them. A 61-year-old guard was doused with petrol and a box of matches rattled beside his ear. He had been threatened that he would be set alight if he failed to reveal the combination of the safe.

Mr Knight's brother, John, was arrested with others in connection with the raid, and is serving 22 years. Soon after, Ronnie Knight left Britain.

Mr Mays said: 'The reason he has returned now is that officers have reason to believe that approaches have been made to a very important witness, going back to a fortnight before he returned.'

But Mr Knight's solicitor, Henri Brandman, said his client categorically denied any knowledge of such an allegation. He said the real reason for Mr Knight's return was that his 87-year-old mother was seriously ill.

Mr Knight was remanded to Brixton prison and will appear again next week, in a case that will run and run.

Leading article, page 15

(Photograph omitted)