John Anslow trial: Prison van escapee cleared of murder

John Anslow Image copyright Other
Image caption John Anslow went on the run to Cyprus

A drug dealer who escaped from a prison van as he was being driven to court has been cleared of murder.

John Anslow, 33, from Tipton, had been charged with killing Richard Deakin when he was freed by a masked gang near HMP Hewell, Redditch in January 2012.

The fugitive was arrested in Cyprus and brought back to the UK, but was cleared by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court.

He admitted a charge of conspiracy to escape from lawful custody and was jailed for seven years in December.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Richard Deakin was shot in the chest as he lay in bed

Staffordshire Police said they were disappointed with the verdict but revealed for the first time that Anslow was already serving a "significant prison sentence".

Masked gunman

Det Ch Insp Darren Harding said Anslow had also been sentenced, in September 2012, to 22 years for his involvement in large-scale drugs supply.

"Reporting restrictions in place at the time meant Anslow's involvement could not be revealed," he said.

"We are satisfied this longstanding investigation has finally come to an end.

"It also means we can expose Anslow's involvement in the previous cases and the public can finally learn what a pivotal role he played in drugs supply in the region."

Mr Deakin was shot by a masked gunman as he lay in bed at his home in Chasetown, Cannock, on the morning of 5 July 2010.

Anslow was charged over the killing in January 2012 but was freed from a prison van as he was being driven to a court hearing.

Police launched an appeal to find him and he was eventually traced to the Alancak region of Northern Cyprus, in March 2013.

Upon his return to the UK, Anslow was charged over the prison van ambush. He admitted escaping lawful custody in September, but denied any role in Mr Deakin's murder.

Two men - David Harrison, 63, and Daryl Dickens, 34, from the Bilston area, were handed life sentences for Mr Deakin's murder in December 2012.

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