Wanted gunman John Soares freed by French judges

John Soares at a table
Image caption Soares was spotted by a BBC investigator dining at a restaurant on Reunion Island and later arrested

A gunman on the run for a decade after shooting his partner has been released by French authorities after he was captured on a remote tropical island.

John Soares, 51, was convicted of repeatedly firing an air gun at Martine Almansa at their Ashford home in 2003.

The BBC tracked Soares to the French Indian Ocean territory of Reunion after he posted images on social media.

On Tuesday, French judges rejected a European Arrest Warrant issued by Kent Police.

A spokesman for the force said it was due to "incompatibilities between the French and UK justice systems".

No appeal

Soares was taken into custody in June and extradition was being sought by Kent Police.

Under French law, a defendant has an automatic right to appeal, whereas in the UK the appeal must be made on a specific point of law.

In the UK, Soares would have had no right to appeal his sentence due to the length of time that has elapsed since his 2012 trial.

Kent Police said the UK authorities would continue to try to secure Soares' arrest.

Soares told BBC South East's Colin Campbell he was seeking a lawyer to challenge his conviction, and remained in Reunion unable to afford to make the return journey to France.

He said he had evidence which he believed will help clear his name.

Image caption The French overseas territory of Reunion is a remote tropical volcanic island in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius

Soares had been released on bail before failing to appear for trial in 2004 and again in 2012.

He had been on the run until an arrest in 2011.

Following court delays, he was again released on bail in February 2012, surrendered his passport but managed to escape abroad.

In May 2012, Maidstone Crown Court tried Soares in his absence for grievous bodily harm and sentenced him to 12 years in jail.

Reunion Island:

  • Population: 865,000
  • Climate: Tropical and humid
  • Geology: Volcanic
  • Government: French overseas territory

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