Birthday surprise for costa shooting suspect

A fugitive wanted in connection with the killing of a father-of-two on the Costa del Sol was arrested by armed police in the middle of his birthday party.

North Wales Police, in a joint operation with Merseyside Police, arrested Darren O’Flaherty, 39, while he was celebrating his birthday at a Chinese restaurant on Tuesday evening.

Police in Spain want to speak to O’Flaherty over the 2010 murder of Dublin holidaymaker John O’Neill.

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He is also wanted by police in the UK over the 2006 knifepoint kidnap of a lorry driver in Yorkshire.

Dave Allen, head of the Fugitives Unit at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), said: “Darren O’Flaherty was out celebrating with his friends, but law enforcement had planned a birthday surprise.

“This arrest, following an operation by Merseyside and North Wales Police, means that 53 fugitives wanted under Operation Captura have now been apprehended, and those still at large should also expect to be brought before UK courts.”

O’Flaherty, from Kirkby, Merseyside, was arrested at a restaurant in Caernarfon, North Wales, at 7.15pm on Tuesday.

Mr O’Neill was in Coco’s Bar, in the resort of Benalmadena, with friends for a wedding when he was killed in July 2010.

Witnesses said a man in the bar grew increasingly angry over having to wait to use the toilet and began kicking the cubicle door, which led to an argument.

It is understood that Mr O’Neill intervened, acting as peacemaker. The man stormed out of the bar, only to return a short time later with a gun, which he used to shoot the Dublin plasterer – who had a three-year-old son and a nine-month-old daughter.

O’Flaherty is also wanted for kidnap and robbery offences over his involvement in an HGV driver being held at knifepoint in his vehicle while it was driven from North Yorkshire to Liverpool. Once £400,000 worth of cargo had been unloaded and the driver released the vehicle was set alight.

O’Flaherty appeared before magistrates yesterday for a minor driving offence committed on Merseyside, police said.

Other court proceedings regarding the more serious offences will now follow in Yorkshire.

O’Flaherty was the 53rd of 65 targets arrested by Operation Captura – a campaign launched in 2006 targeting British criminals thought to be hiding in Spain.

Many of those arrested are now serving lengthy prison sentences for their crimes, which range from drug trafficking to murder.