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“He knows he’s a man on the run and he clearly has no intention of doing anything about it. Nigel runs – where’s he going to run to? He needs to be brought back and serve his time.” - Maureen Burnell, wife of fugitive Nigel Burnell
This new documentary features a manhunt attempting to track down a pair of wanted criminals so they can be brought to justice.
Presenters Mark Williams-Thomas and Natasha Kaplinsky show how their undercover team trace fugitives who are running from the law and the programme includes high-octane scenes as the team closes in on the wanted men.
One is a sex offender, the other a violent fugitive. They have gone to ground after jumping bail in one case and breaking their licence conditions in the other. Using undercover stings and subterfuge, this programme shows in vivid detail how these criminals are located by the team, before police are called in to arrest them.
It also brings into sharp focus the difficulty in arresting a wanted British criminal in Portugal - even though he is the subject of an international arrest warrant.
The criminals being hunted are:
Nigel Burnell, a sex offender from South Wales who went on the run to Portugal, breaching a court order. A member of the undercover team tracks him down to a bar in the Algarve.
Lukasz Sawicki, who failed to appear in court for a charge of sexual assault and is wanted in Poland for threats to kill after being convicted in his absence. Mark and the team call in a financial investigator in a bid to track him down and eventually find him in South London.
The manhunt begins as the team travels to the Algarve on the trail of Nigel Burnell, and finds him in a karaoke bar where he reveals to an undercover reporter that he works in a strip club occasionally, 'doing the music'. Mark asks the Portuguese police to arrest him as Burnell is the subject of an international arrest warrant. But the Portuguese police say they are unaware of the warrant and cannot arrest him. Mark describes how frustrating he finds the situation: “This is a man who has been on the run for a long time, he’s out there unable to be caught because of an administrative issue. The worst case scenario of course is that he goes on his toes and he goes missing again.”
His wife Maureen tells Natasha she thought he was the perfect husband - until he was arrested for a sex offence: “He was the type of guy that everybody loved. We had lots of friends. Everybody loved him. Everybody called him Taff. Everybody loved him. Totally disgusted that I could have been conned by a man like that and it’s left me with a wall that I build and I don’t let anybody over that wall. It’s not a nice feeling and he’s not a nice person.”
Having given the police a fortnight to arrest Burnell, Mark returns to the Algarve after hearing he is still at large, in an attempt to confront him.
International fugitive Lukasz Sawicki is seen on CCTV forcefully sexually assaulting a woman as he walks down Colchester high street. The victim explains the impact the crime has had on her: ”Emotionally, it’s always going to be there. It’s made me feel uncomfortable around strangers since then. I have to look over my shoulder every time I bend over to pick something up. I felt disgusted that a fully-grown man can do that to a girl. Just because he sees a girl he can do what he wants to her. It makes me think that’s the sort of man that thinks he controls a woman, and it makes me feel physically sick.”
The team attempts to track the elusive Polish criminal by using methods including a financial investigator, Duncan Mee.
He explains to Natasha that Sawicki hadn’t made his job easy by not making any financial transactions, which leave a ‘footprint’: “Well, I can tell you he’s a cautious man. He’s gone off-grid. He’s disappeared from leaving these footprints and he’s not doing any financial transactions at the moment. That suggests to me he may have left the country. Because I can tell you where he was at the time of the sexual assault but since that time he hasn’t left a footprint at all.”
The team gets a tip-off that Sawicki’s girlfriend has moved to an address in South London, so they put the house under surveillance. As a result, the team covertly films him driving around the area with friends before finally gathering with police officers to prepare for a takedown outside the house.