One of Britain’s most-wanted criminals – suspected paedophile Stephen Carruthers – has been arrested in France after crashing his car.
The 43-year-old has been on the run after after police found thousands of obscene images of children on his computer.
The most serious of the images showed “contact sexual abuse’ between adults and children,” according the National Crime Agency, which named him as one of Britain’s 10 most wanted criminals.
Carruthers, who featured in a most wanted fugitives campaign run by the NCA and Crimestoppers, was living in a cottage in Saint-Denis-Catus and is believed to have been using a false name, according to the NCA.
He was admitted to Cahors Hospital with minor injuries on Saturday and was kept in for observations, and subsequent checks by the French authorities on the EU law enforcement database revealed his real identity.
After officers executed a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) at the hospital, Carruthers appeared before the general prosecutor of the appeal court of Agen where he was remanded in custody.
Extradition proceedings are now under way and his next hearing is on Wednesday, the NCA said.
Matt Burton, head of the NCA's International Crime Bureau, said: "The majority of our most wanted fugitives are captured as a result of intelligence-led operations, but with Carruthers his days on the run ended thanks to a huge slice of luck.
"Following the car crash the French authorities carried out checks that revealed his real identity and enabled them to execute the EAW. Now after being at large for nearly three years he will be returned to the UK to face justice."
Officers raided Carruthers' home in the idyllic village of Ambleside, in the Lake District, in March 2014.
When interviewed by officers the 43-year-old denied committing any offences. He was released on bail and has now been on the run for more than two and a half years.
But officers discovered 5,332 obscene images of children on his computer.
The most serious of the images showed ‘contact sexual abuse’ between adults and children, the NCS said.