‘Running man’ faces day of reckoning after 12 years on run

A fugitive who jumped bail during his trial for a violent attempted robbery has been brought back to court to be sentenced for absconding more than 12 years ago.

Judge Timothy Spencer QC told 42-year-old Ambrose O’Neill: “The day of reckoning is here.

“I suspect you always thought it was going to come – and it has.”

O’Neill was 30-years-old when a Leicester Crown Court jury convicted him, in his absence, of trying to rob a 67-year-old antique dealer of valuables in front of his terrified wife.

The trial judge was faced with an empty dock when he passed an eight year prison sentence on the missing man.

Posing as a pizza deliveryman, O’Neill had burst into the couple’s home in the village of Seagrave, in Charnwood, Leicestershire, when they returned from an antiques fair, at 5.45pm on February 10, 2007.

The defendant, accompanied by an unknown accomplice, repeatedly punched the victim, causing multiple facial injuries that left him cut, bruised and covered in blood.

He told the pensioner he had a knife and threatened to kill him if he did not co-operate in opening a safe – which turned out to contain nothing. The raiders left empty-handed.

O’Neill, who denied the offence, attended the first day of his trial on July 9, 2008, but then jumped bail.

He then thwarted determined efforts to track him down for more than a decade and was nicknamed ‘The Running Man’ by police as a result.

During that time the police received taunting messages that he was “laughing” about their failure to catch him.

A tip-off finally led to his capture in mid-January this year, at an address in Causeway, Wyberton, near Boston, Lincolnshire, and he went straight to jail to commence his eight year sentence.

O’Neill appeared at Leicester Crown Court on Monday February 1, via a live video link from prison, to admit absconding on bail, which carries a separate penalty.

Elizabeth Dodds, prosecuting, said when the defendant disappeared he left “no footprint whatsoever.”

She said: “It was a well planned escape and evasion and there were no details of his existence from that point.

“He changed his appearance and used more than one false name with a number of people assisting him to live a fugitive’s life for 12 years.”

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O’Neill was nearly caught in 2018, when a house was searched in Lincolnshire where a number of fighting dogs in cages with injuries on their faces were located and a cannabis grow was discovered. But O’Neill had scarpered.

The court heard that he was not being prosecuted in relation to alleged fighting dogs or cannabis production.

Miss Dodds told the court the attempted robbery victims suffered distress and anxiety after the “terrifying attack” in their home and having given evidence at the trial were “denied justice for 12 years.”

She said the couple were in such fear they moved home and still have flashbacks of the ordeal.

They are now said to be “relieved” that O’Neill is finally behind bars.

When O’Neill was captured, LeicestershireLive reported on the extent of the police search to find him, which cost thousands of pounds, and the sheer determination of one officer in particular, PC James Gill, who revealed the fugitive’s nickname was “The Running man.”

Pc James Gill, of Nottinghamshire Police

Sentencing, Judge Spencer told the defendant: “Your courage failed you at trial.

“When someone makes themselves a fugitive they have to cut all ties and lead a pretty miserable existence.

“You deliberately and cynically evaded justice, denying the victims justice and undermining the court process.

“The courts powers are limited regarding this offence (absconding on bail carries a 12 month maximum term), but it will be a consecutive sentence to the eight years imposed by my brother judge in 2008.”

James Bide-Thomas, mitigating, said: “He’s deeply sorry for what he did all those years ago.

“He tells me that 12 and-a-half years changes a man and he’s likely to be right about that.

“He’d been living all over the country, employed in casual work and as a result of being on the run all his relationships broke down.

“He has a 14-year-old daughter he’s never met and following the death of his loved ones there were funerals he couldn’t attend.”

Judge Spencer imposed an eight month sentence, to run consecutively to the eight year term for the attempted robbery.

Leicestershire Live – Leicester News