THE WIFE of a drugs baron who went on the run after killing a policeman’s wife in a car crash is thought to have got around border controls by fleeing to Holland in a private airplane.
Paula Barnes, 45, of Baydon, was accused of causing the death of 49-year-old teacher Diane Wright by driving dangerously.
But, despite surrendering her passport, it is thought she left the country in early 2011 via private transport, having failed to turn up for a hearing on April 15 to enter a plea.
After an investigation involving Wiltshire Police, Interpol, regional crime group Zephyr and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, she was tracked down in Amsterdam this month and brought back to Swindon, where she pleaded guilty to the offence of causing death by dangerous driving, on Thursday.
Inspector Steve Cox, the head of Wiltshire Police’s roads policing unit, which led the investigation, said: “We think she left the country probably in a private airplane.
“We know she left the country illegally, she didn’t go through border control, she didn’t go through passport controls, and she didn’t fly out or sail out by commercial means.”
The crash, which tool place on an unclassified road between Foxhill and Baydon in September 2010, took place months after the defendant’s husband, David, had been jailed for 12 years for his part in a multi-million pound cannabis ring.
Insp Cox said Barnes’ friends and family did not know where she could be, but officers suspected she could be in Holland as they established she and her husband had friends out there.
The force secured a European arrest warrant in July.
Working with Zephyr, they used her bank account statements and other information to complete a detailed lifestyle map of her which, coupled with her physical description, helped Dutch police track her down.
Insp Cox said she was a wealthy woman who liked horse riding, so for example, the Dutch police were asked to make inquiries at riding stables.
He said: “The lifestyle mapping was done and it gave the Dutch police certain clues to look for so we said to them ‘Look and check with local riding stables, look and check with local wine merchants.’
“There were lots of leads in the inquiries done by the Dutch and it was on November 9 in the evening a woman matching Paula’s appearance was arrested, was taken to a local police station, and fingerprints confirmed it was indeed Paula Barnes.”
Wiltshire Police will not yet provide details about the circumstances in which she was found.
A Dutch court authorised her extradition to the UK on November 11 and she was handed over to Wiltshire Police officers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, on Thursday morning and flown back to Heathrow, from where she was returned to Swindon and put in front of the town’s Crown Court at
She has been remanded in custody and is due to appear on January 18 at Swindon Crown Court for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.