Most Wanted Couple Returning To Face Justice

Martin Brunt, Crime Correspondent
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Most Wanted Couple Returning To Face Justice

A fugitive couple who have spent six years in hiding are about to return to face justice in the UK.

Wayne Smith and his partner Julie Anne Skelding are in a police cell after giving themselves up in Cyprus.

They are expected to fly back after Smith admitted, in an interview before his arrest, that their time on the run had become a "living nightmare".

Smith, who jumped bail after a conviction for causing death by dangerous driving, has been a fugitive in Northern Cyprus since 2006.

His partner Skelding joined him soon after when a jury found her guilty of giving him a false alibi.

Last month, they were exposed on the latest Most Wanted list released by Crimestoppers and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Smith told Sky News: "I want to go back and face justice. It's about closure for me and closure for the family of the man who died.

"Their loss is tragic and I sympathise and I'm truly and deeply sorry. No-one wants to turn back the clocks more than I do if I could."

Smith, 38, faces several years in jail for causing the death of pedestrian Mohammed Idrees in Birmingham in 2005.

Smith said he fled abroad because he was suffering from stress and had received death threats, which the police failed to take seriously.

The couple have survived undetected in the Turkish-controlled north of the divided island because, although many Brits live and holiday there, it has no extradition treaty with the UK.

Smith said: "This is no holiday lifestyle here. We have no money and struggle from day to day to make ends meet.

"We have been lucky to make some unbiased friends and they have supported us. No-one knew our background, but obviously they do now.

"I didn't come here and change my name or my appearance. When someone has challenged me I've told the truth."

Smith was an account executive with a mobile phone company at the time of his conviction. He was driving behind a friend's car when it hit pedestrian Mr Idrees, 22, as he crossed a suburban road in Birmingham.

Smith's car dragged Mr Idrees for more than 100 metres before he pulled over and found the young man dead under his vehicle.

He says he drove off because a large group of Asian men was running towards him and he feared they would attack and kill him.

Smith said they were already considering returning to Britain before Crimestoppers launched the Most Wanted appeal.

He has been employed as an odd-job man here, while Skelding, 40, worked in various bars frequented by British expats.

Smith said: "It's become a living nightmare, because eventually your passport runs out. I never wanted to escape justice, I wanted time to consider my actions because I felt I was unfairly convicted.

"I was involved in a tragic accident. It was hurtful to see myself described as Most Wanted. I would never put myself in that category with terrorists and murderers.

"What I did was wrong, I killed a man, but it wasn't intentional. I was charged with the wrong offence and I am going back to launch an appeal."

The couple told the British High Commission three weeks ago that they wanted to surrender, but their return was complicated because his passport and Northern Cyprus visa had expired. Her documents were still valid.

To give himself up, Smith had to leave the north and cross the border to the Greek south, where police were waiting to arrest him on a European Arrest Warrant.

But he delayed his return because he feared the Turkish border guards would arrest him first and jail him in the north for document violations before he could cross to the Greek side.

In the end, the Turkish border guards waved him through and he and his partner were arrested in the south. They have been held in a police station in the capital Nicosia, and are expecting to be put on a plane and extradited.

Smith faces at least three years in jail. Skelding is also likely to be sent to prison.

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