Our obsession with the seedier side of life shows no signs of waning – as TV shows and book rankings clearly show.
It’s human nature to be morbidly curious about violent crimes such as murder and we absorb the smallest details with horror and fascination.
It’s no surprise, then, that law enforcement capitalizes on our preoccupation with crime and uses it to their advantage.
The best example is The Most Wanted lists, which started in the US but are now also a staple of British policing.
Fugitives are nothing new and since 1950 they have published long details of the men and women in the United States who are considered the most dangerous fugitives – in the hope that they will provide information resulting in a capture.
Many of those on these lists have evaded legal agencies for years and are likely hiding in plain sight.
Almost all of them are wanted for serious crimes like murder, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
A few years ago my attention turned to the FBI list with the inclusion of a Scotsman – William Blackledge, who had been hot for 16 years when I managed to track him down in southern France in 2005.
Crime gang lieutenant Blackledge, originally from Lanarkshire, had risen through the ranks to become a big boss and was importing millions of pounds of drugs into the US from Colombia for the powerful Cali Cartel – Pablo Escobar’s main rivals .
He was the FBI’s No. 1 target but, unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the U.S. Marshals to follow up on my discovery of his St Tropez bolthole, Blackledge, then in his late 60s, was able to disappear and n has never surfaced since.
It remains an annoying worry in the back of my head whenever the annual most wanted listings are released.
Another Scotsman is the subject of an international manhunt in connection with a shipment of a tonne of cocaine, worth £100million, discovered in the port of Dover.
The National Crime Agency recently released details of Jamie ‘Iceman’ Stevenson, who has been on the run since August 2020 when he was released on bail from the courts following his arrest for a £14million street valium plant .
The NCA believe Stevenson, 56, is in Spain and with his vast financial resources and contacts he will be able to remain in hiding for a long time.
They sent a stern warning that they won’t stop until he’s recaptured.
Chances are an eagle-eyed member of the public will spot Stevenson and it will lead to his arrest.
Sometimes it works the other way around – and the world’s most wanted people are right here in Scotland.
This month we witnessed the bizarre case of Arthur Knight, one of America’s most wanted men.
He was arrested after arriving at a Glasgow hospital believed to have Covid-19.
He was arrested by Scottish cops on the orders of the international body Interpol, which said a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He now faces extradition to the United States.
Most wanted listings are, in many cases, a final roll of the dice. Open it up to the public and hope the armchair detectives are up to the task and can help the long arm of the law catch fugitives.
It turns out that the public is very often up to the task – and can be better than the professionals.
Penalties for kidnapping too short
A very disturbing case hit the headlines earlier this week, but what caught my attention were the lenient sentences handed down.
Teenager Angel Lynn was unable to walk, talk or feed herself after suffering life-altering injuries when she was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend Chay Bowskill and friend Rocco Sansome, both aged 20, in Loughborough, Leicestershire, in September 2020.
Angel fell from the van Bowskill had dumped her from while driving 60 mph down the highway.
The 19-year-old now needs round-the-clock care and Bowskill was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years. Sansome turned 20 months old.
It was said in court that it was unclear how she got out of the vehicle, so Bowskill was cleared of unintentionally causing grievous bodily harm.
But he kidnapped an innocent young woman, threw her in a van, and intended to do God knows what. His life has now changed beyond recognition. The book should have been thrown at both of them.
Has anyone else caught Trigger Point – the new ITV crime drama from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, starring Vicky McClure as explosives agent Lana Washington?
I wanted to love him, but… no. The biggest laugh was a supposed bomb expert about to flip a switch while looking for the bomb’s “trigger point”. My TV’s switch has been turned off.