Thug who stabbed man over his expensive watch became one of the UK's most wanted

Mark Francis Roberts was arrested in Estepona, Malaga
Mark Francis Roberts was arrested in Estepona, Malaga -Credit:NCA

An armed thug who stabbed a man over his expensive watch in a botched robbery became one of the UK's most wanted after he fled the country.

Mark Francis Roberts, now 31, stabbed Mohamad Alkshaib in the chest after cornering him on the driveway of his South Liverpool home and attempting to steal his BMW M4 car and £60,000 Richard Mille watch on September 30, 2016. Realising the net was quickly closing in on him, Roberts fled and was apprehended seven years later in Estepona, Malaga on May 10, 2023.

This week marks the one year anniversary of Roberts' detainment in Southern Spain, which came following an intelligence-led operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Guardia Civil and Merseyside. A spokesperson for the NCA said the arrest showed "once again that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those who await justice in the UK".

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Roberts, appearing at Liverpool Crown Court on August 4 last year, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and wounding with intent. Charlotte Atherton, prosecuting, told the court victim Mr Alkshaib was pulling into the driveway of his gated community home at around 1.30am on September 30 2016, when Roberts and another man, both dressed in black hoodies, ran towards him.

Ms Atherton said: "The defendant had with him, and was brandishing, a 15cm knife. He shouted 'get out of the car.'" Mr Alkshaib attempted to shut himself inside his car, but Roberts shoved his way inside with the knife in his hand. There was a struggle, and Mr Alkshaib suffered a cut to his hand.

It was then Roberts, whose last known address was Freehold Street, Fairfield, noticed the expensive watch on Mr Alkshaib's wrist and attempted to steal it, but was pushed out of the car by his victim. Ms Atherton said: "The defendant and the other male stood about 1-2m away at that point and they had an opportunity to leave, but instead the defendant lunged forward and stabbed Mr Alkshaib to the left-hand side of his chest.

As they ran away, Mr Alkshaib heard the defendant say 'I'm cut'." Badly injured, Mr Alkshaib managed to drag himself into his house and alert his family, who called 999. He was taken to Aintree Hospital with a 20cm stab wound to his left arm, a 2cm wound to his chest, a punctured lung, a 10cm wound to his left abdomen, a laceration to his left hand, a fractured rib and a cut to his left forearm.

Ms Atherton said: "He became out of breath and suffered large blood loss, such that he feared for his own life." As Mr Aklshaib was rushed into a five-hour operation, emergency services received a report that Roberts had fallen on glass and suffered a cut to his arm. He was taken to Royal Liverpool Hospital and then Whiston Hospital, where he was reluctant to talk about his injuries. Ms Atherton said: "CSI attended the scene and took swabs. Blood found on the vehicle was identified as being the defendant's blood."

Fearing his blood spatter would lead authorities right to his door, Roberts went on the run. Roberts featured in a Most Wanted campaign run by the NCA, independent charity Crimestoppers and Spanish law enforcement which targeted fugitives with links to Spain and the Canary Islands. When he was arrested, he was the eighth fugitive to be brought to justice by the targeted probe.

Steve Reynolds, NCA regional manager in Spain, said: "Roberts’ arrest came about after a sustained campaign to trace him and some great work by the Guardia Civil. This is another excellent result and shows once again that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those who await justice in the UK.

"Working closely with our colleagues at home and abroad, such as our highly valued Spanish partners, we will continue to hunt those on the run."

Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts -Credit:Merseyside Police

Merseyside Police Detective Inspector Katie Coote said: "I hope this arrest shows that there is no hiding place for anyone who is evading police. Thanks to our ongoing work with National Crime Agency, Roberts has been located and is now in police custody.

"These actions with our partners across the UK and beyond are about stopping anyone who could cause fear and harm in our community and we will leave no stone unturned no matter the length of time to find people who are wanted in connection with ongoing investigations or offences."

Lord Ashcroft, founder and chair of Crimestoppers, said: "I am delighted that another fugitive has finally been caught and will no longer be able to avoid justice. Our Most Wanted campaign with the NCA – supported by the excellent work of Spanish law enforcement – has been an incredible success."

When he appeared in court last year, Roberts' defence Jonathan Duffy said his client was now "an entirely different man" and a dad to triplets. He said: "The defendant at the time had no previous convictions for violence. Seven years have elapsed since he committed the offence and during that time he has committed no offence at all.

"Also importantly, he was 23 at the time, but he is now 30 and a lot has happened in his life. He's stayed entirely law-abiding since then. He has a settled family position and is an entirely different man than he was in September 2015. As serious as Mark Roberts' offending was in 2016, the fact that it was an isolated violent offence and has not been repeated, the fact that he was very young at the time, the fact that he has changed in terms of his family situation... for all these reasons, the court should be slow to come to the conclusion that he is dangerous."

Sentencing Roberts to eight years in prison, Judge Richard Pratt said: "Five hours of surgery was necessary to repair the harm that you caused. There are many times that I myself have read reports about life threatening injuries and the surgery required which have had a different and tragic outcome. On this occasion, happily, Mr Alkshaib survived and I am told suffered no lasting harm. I have no doubt that the harm suffered at the time was life threatening.

"In the years which have passed, you appear to have abandoned the lifestyle you had as a teenager and into your young 20s. You appear, from all I have read about you, to be a dedicated father."

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