A convicted rapist who fled the country before being sentenced for a “despicable” attack on a vulnerable teacher has been arrested in Italy after spending nine days on the run.
Wakar Akhtar from Bradford was sentenced to 17 years in jail in his absence last month along with three friends from the same city after a jury convicted them for conspiring to rape the intoxicated young woman.
The 21-year-old was due to be jailed alongside Tamseel Virk, 42, Najeed U-Sajeed, 31, and Azad Raja, 38, all from Bradford, at Bradford Crown Court, but fled during his trial.
Akhtar, of Hudson Avenue, Bradford, went on the run after giving evidence on November 17.
He is thought to have caught a ferry to Calais in France early the following morning, with the help of others who got him to the coast, before travelling through Europe to the city of Brescia in northern Italy.
Police were able to track him down, with the help of Interpol, the Italian police and the National Crime Agency, after arresting two of his associates coming back into the country in Dover having travelled to France with Akhtar.
He was arrested by Italian police at a block of flats in Brescia on Saturday morning, West Yorkshire Police say. Extradition proceedings against him were expected to begin in Italy today.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Snow, of Protective Services (Homicide and Major Enquiry Team), said: “I would like to praise the efforts of the National Crime Agency, Interpol and the Italian authorities, who carried out significant work with ourselves to locate Akhtar, who was found to be staying with friends in the Brescia region.
“We hope the extradition proceedings will be completed quickly, so he can be brought back to the UK and face sentence for the despicable crime he was found guilty of.”
He added: “After giving evidence [at his trial], his version of events is so ludicrous, how would the jury ever believe him as opposed to a professional teacher? I think he saw the writing on the wall, that is the top and bottom of it.
“The extradition process has now begun and in due course he will be brought back to the UK to serve his sentence and any extra punishment that may be due.”
Bradford Crown Court heard last month that the men raped the young woman during the evening of May 25 and early hours of May 26, after she was picked up by a taxi driver Virk.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been out celebrating a friend’s birthday in Leeds and was intoxicated when she left.
When she came round, she found Raja was having sex with her, while Akhtar told her he had already had sex with her, the court was told.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told the court that the evening had been a joyful occasion to begin with but the woman ended up “coming to her senses on a park bench in another city being raped”.
Describing the victim’s experience as a nightmare, the judge told the three men in the dock: “This was totally despicable, it was utterly callous, it was a degree of inhuman behaviour hard, even for one such as myself inured to evil, to understand.”
During the two-week trial, the court heard that the teacher had drunk a lot, left the party without her bag and was later spotted wandering around Leeds train station.
At some point she had got in a taxi to travel to wherever she was staying but had got out again in a confused state, possibly regarding getting her bag back.
It was then, the court heard, that Virk spotted her as he drove along, “accosted her and secured her in the cab”, according to the judge. Vick then drove her from Leeds to Bradford.