Drugs arrest Briton wanted by British police

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The Independent US

A British man arrested in Venezuela after allegedly being found with three suitcases of cocaine is wanted by Merseyside Police, the force said today.

Paul Makin, 31, was due to attend court at the beginning of the month but failed to attend, a police spokesman said.

He is currently in custody with his wife Laura after being arrested at Porlamar airport on the holiday island of Margarita.

Makin was due to attend Liverpool Crown Court on 9 February accused of carrying a machete and affray.

When he did not attend the trial judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

The couple were arrested and detained and their four children - twins Libby and Lucy, aged two, and Jack, eight and Megan, seven - taken into care.

The two older children attend Mersey Park Primary School in Birkenhead.

The chair of governors, councillor Brian Kenny, today said: "Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the allegation my main concern is for the welfare of the four children involved and the two attending our school.

"I want the children in good hands and to be looked after.

"I have had a discussion with our education department to make sure we are speaking to the Foreign Office about the children's welfare.

"It is obviously a very traumatic situation for the children - the whole situation sounds really horrific."

Relatives from Merseyside are thought to be flying out to Margarita to be with the children.

Makin's grandmother Margaret today spoke of her shock at his arrest.

Speaking from her semi-detached home in Moreton, Merseyside, Mrs Makin said: "This has shattered me.

"I knew he was going on holiday but the first I heard about this was when a relative rang this morning saying 'Have you got a Paul and Laura Makin?'

"I said Yes, and they told me the news."

Mrs Makin, a widow who has six sons, added: "I couldn't believe it.

"I didn't know he was going to Venezuela and I have no idea what's going on and if it is a mistake.

"I am just so shocked.

"I haven't even got a phone number for his mother and I haven't heard from the Foreign Office though I think the family are taking care of it all.

"The last I heard was that Paul and Laura were getting divorced - I think that is still the case.

"I couldn't believe the news of this when I heard it - that they were caught with coke."

Today, former neighbours of Laura Makin's in Allerton Grove, Birkenhead, said she moved from the terraced property about six months ago.

Saying that the couple were estranged, one neighbour who did not want to be named, said: "Laura always seemed nice and you'd see her with the kids.

"She lived there alone. I can't believe the Laura Makin in the news is the same one."

The El Sol de Margarita news website reported that the British couple were arrested for allegedly trying to take 21.725kg of what is thought to be cocaine through the Santiago Marino international airport.

The drugs were hidden in false bottoms in the suitcases, the website said.

Officers from an elite anti-drugs unit of the National Bolivarian Guard, a branch of the country's armed forces, arrested the couple on Monday morning as they prepared to fly to London.

Colonel Luis Gustavo Graterol Caraballo said the national guard would continue to use intelligence to "control the scourge of trafficking, selling and distribution on the island of Margarita".

A spokeswoman for First Choice confirmed that the family were on a package holiday with the firm and were due to board a London-bound flight when they were stopped.

A statement released by the travel company said: "First Choice is concerned to hear of the alleged incident in Margarita on 16 February, 2009.

"We can confirm the family were travelling with us.

"First Choice is liaising with the British Consulate and has offered assistance where necessary.

"First Choice operates a zero tolerance drugs policy. However, as this is now the responsibility for the local authorities and the British Consulate, we feel unable to comment further on this particular matter."