Spanish police detain British arson fugitive

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Spanish authorities confirmed Thursday they had arrested two men wanted by British police, one of whom is accused of arson and who escaped from the back of a police van in Manchester.

They were among seven men detained in the southeastern province of Alicante on suspicion of belonging to a gang that staged violent bank robberies while staff were refilling cash dispensing machines, the interior ministry said in a statement.

It did not provide their identities but British media identified one of them as Richard Smith, 29, who received a five-year jail sentence in Britain in 2001 for the manslaughter of club bouncer Ben Kamanalagi, 28, an ex-paratrooper.

He is wanted in Britain in relation with an arson attack on a vehicle recovery garage in the town of Walkden near Manchester used by police that caused more than one million pounds in damage and destroyed forensic evidence linking a car to an armed robbery.

Smith was arriving at court in Manchester on May 13 when three masked men, armed with sticks and a crowbar, forced open the door of the police van to get him out and fled in another vehicle.

One of the men who staged the ambush, identified by British media as convicted bank robber Jared Jones, was also among the seven people detained in Spain.

Britain's Daily Mirror reported Thursday that Jones is the former boyfriend of a prostitute who English footballer Wayne Rooney allegedly paid for sex while his wife, Coleen, was pregnant with their son.

European arrest warrants had been issued for both Smith and Jones.

Two of the seven men were detained while there were attacking a bank branch in the coastal town of Benissa near Alicante while the rest were held shortly afterwards at a gas station when they were trying to flee police.

The group chose banks where the cash dispenser was placed in an entrance hall and was not built into the wall. They used large hammers and rocks to smash their way inside and rob the bank staff.

Police found around 8,000 euros (11,000 dollars) in cash as well as a guns, bullets and false documents at a house in Javea in Alicante province used by the group.

© 2010 AFP

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