England

On-the-run Salisbury Novichok hoaxer jailed

A picture of the couple Image copyright Instagram Anna Shapiro
Image caption A picture of Alex King and Anna Shapiro, posted on Ms Shapiro's Instagram account in 2015

A man who sparked fears of another Novichok attack in Salisbury has been jailed in his absence after he was convicted of dealing drugs.

Months after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned, Alex King, 42, and his wife Anna Shapiro collapsed at a restaurant in Salisbury.

Southwark Crown Court heard King feigned an illness to avoid his trial.

He was last seen at a flat in central London in December, but was found guilty on Friday of four drug offences.

He was jailed for 11 years

In June 2016 officers found a block of 90%-pure cocaine, MDMA powder, ecstasy pills, crack cocaine, ketamine and diazepam, with a street value of about £60,000 in a safe inside King's Marylebone flat.

King had been due to face two charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, one charge of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and one charge of conspiracy to supply Class C drugs in September.

But, on 16 September he falsely claimed he had been poisoned which sparked a major incident in Salisbury.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A major incident was declared in Salisbury in September, after Ms Shapiro and Mr King said they had fallen ill

He was taken to hospital, but released three days later after doctors found no poison, toxin or immediately obvious neurological reason to explain his symptoms.

The court heard King was last seen leaving a flat with Ms Shapiro near Harley Street, central London, on 17 December.

His associate, Baljit Gill, 38, who lived with his parents in Welling, south-east London, was jailed for nine years after he was found guilty of two charges of conspiring to sell Class A drugs after a separate trial.

King had taken photographs and videos of drugs and himself with his merchandise, which were found on his mobile phone, while Gill had recorded himself arranging a drug deal.

'Craved attention'

Sebastian Gardiner, defending Gill, described King as a "very bizarre" character who lived a "glamorous, albeit seedy, existence", making money from arranging parties, selling drugs and supplying high-class escorts to his VIP clients.

"Mr King was a socialite who met with the rich and famous.

"He craved that sort of involvement and attention," he said.

"He was always keen to have a photo of him taken with anybody deemed to be a celebrity."

The judge started proceedings to confiscate King's criminal cash, warning King's absence from court would not work in his favour.

He added: "If the defendant is not here to explain what he owns or doesn't own, it may not be to his advantage."

Wiltshire Police said the force's investigation was still ongoing into the incident at Prezzo.

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