Leeds man arrested in international man hunt after 15 years on the run

A Leeds man who was arrested in an international manhunt after 15 years on the run has been jailed for more than nine years.

Christopher Woodhead, 66, ran a series of chemical plant companies that targeted residential properties across Yorkshire between 1997 and 1999, defrauding innocent people of thousands of pounds.
Christopher Woodhead, 66, ran a series of chemical plant companies that targeted residential properties across Yorkshire between 1997 and 1999, defrauding innocent people of thousands of pounds.

Christopher Woodhead, 66, ran a series of chemical plant companies that targeted residential properties across Yorkshire between 1997 and 1999, defrauding innocent people of thousands of pounds.

He systematically milked money from each of them for his personal benefit.

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Using fictitious invoices, loans and direct cash transfers to move money between his companies, Woodhead illicitly withdrew nearly £450,000, spending it on gambling debts, holiday travel, his ex-wife's maintenance payments, personal expenses, property and cars.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and West Yorkshire Police began investigating Woodhead in May 2000, after victims made complaints about his work to the press with allegations he had been overcharging, with customer bills running into the thousands of pounds for little actual work.

He was charged with 13 offences under Section 1(1) Theft Act 1968 in August 2002 and was released on unconditional bail. He absconded from justice the day before his trial on June 15 2004, with an arrest warrant issued shortly after.

His Honour Justice Shaun Spencer QC granted a trial in his absence and on 27 July 2004, Woodhead was found guilty on 12 counts and sentenced to six years in prison and disqualified as a company director for 12 years.

Woodfield was arrested in Madrid, Spain on May 21, this year. Police say he had been living in Marbella.

An extradition hearing granting transfer to the UK was held in May.

Today, at Leeds Magistrates' Court, he was handed down an additional three years default sentence in relation to the unpaid confiscation order of £428,000. With interest, the amount now owing is £900,000.

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “This man’s brazen decade and a half on the run is finally at an end and I am pleased to see him behind bars and serving a sentence for his crimes.

“This case should send a clear message that we will always persist in our pursuit of justice.”

Officer in the case, Detective Constable Neil Bottomley, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Woodhead defrauded innocent people out of hundreds-of-thousands of pounds, and his total lack of remorse was evident when he didn’t face his victims or the courts and instead went on the run.

“Fifteen years later, he now faces a lengthy prison sentence and a £900,000 fine. His sentence shows time is no barrier to prosecution and we will pursue you until we get justice for the victims involved.”