International crime baron Craig Allen, with his two wives and two children in Europe and Asia, spent his days organising drug deals from Thailand and Amsterdam... but in the end he was arrested doing nothing more exotic than shopping in Ikea.
But when officers from South Yorkshire Police and their Dutch colleagues searched the Netherlands flat where he was staying last October, they found a discovery that was far from ordinary.
Stashed in carrier bags were half a million Euros in notes, three kilos of cocaine, and a kilogramme of heroin. Scales, a cash-counting machine and a vacuum-packing device were all also found.
Police managed to link the 50-year-old to no fewer than five Class A drugs operations, primarily through mobile phone evidence. In each case Allen was proved to be at the helm, directing the delivery of drugs and the exchange of cash in the UK to organised crime groups from his Thai mansion.
He used up to 20 mobile telephones to conduct his complex web, and over a two-year time frame £200,000 was wired to Thailand.
All of it was a world away from Allen’s childhood growing up in Parson Cross.
Sheffield Crown Court heard Allen has previous convictions dating back to 1975, when he was just a child.
In the 13 years to 1988 he was convicted of offences of dishonesty – and, in 1991, he was one of eight prison lags who broke out of a jail bus in Sheffield while on remand for armed robbery and deception.
The prisoners overwhelmed the guards, and ringleader Bernard Andrews held a razor blade to one of them, bringing the bus to a standstill in Shiregreen.
The guards were manacled inside and the prisoners went on the run, sparking a national manhunt.
Fugitive Allen was captured after four months.
Just two years later he was back before the courts again, jailed for 12-and-a-half years for supplying heroin and amphetamines.
And in 2001 he was locked up once more, for two years for conspiracy to supply cannabis.
But it was in 2003 that he faced trial for a far more serious charge – the New Year’s Day murder of Sheffield music promoter Lester Divers, shot dead at the wheel of his car in Walkley.
Allen was accused of being the mastermind who ordered the ‘gangland killing’.
He denied the charge and was cleared, and walked free from court an innocent man.
It was then he moved to Spain, with his then-wife and son, to ‘make a fresh start’ due to ‘serious threats against him’, Sheffield Crown Court heard yesterday.
Allen’s barrister Adrian Waterman, QC, claimed he tried to begin his life again, and worked as a painter and decorator – a trade in which he had been trained. But his wife returned to the UK with their son, and Allen was unable to go with her ‘because of the threats against him’.
And, when he visited a friend in Thailand, that’s where he chose to settle.
“It was irresistible to him not to stay away from his old ways,” Mr Waterman told the court. “He was safer associating with other drug dealers than living a more conventional life. He fell back into the drug dealing world.”
He said Allen left Thailand in 2010 for Amsterdam, because he owed money to drug dealers, leaving behind both his new Thai bride, whom he had married the same year, and their young child. And it was in Holland he was finally snared.
DI Craig Jackson from South Yorkshire Police, who led the investigation, said Allen’s arrest had been ‘a long time coming’.
“He was Sheffield born and bred but his reputation extends far beyond Sheffield. He’s a very well known figure,” he said.
“Craig Allen was directing and controlling Class A drugs into the UK from the other side of the world.
“He certainly wasn’t expecting his arrest. He had no idea we were on to him at all.”