Hunt is on for drug fugitives

Part of the winding convoy of police vehicles on the way to the Operation Harness raid

Part of the winding convoy of police vehicles on the way to the Operation Harness raid

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @BerenCross

FIVE men are on the run from police pursuing the remaining individuals wanted in connection with Wiltshire Police’s single biggest day of action in its history.

On Wednesday morning Wilt-shire Police sent out 400 officers and staff to execute approximately 70 warrants at residential and business addresses in Swindon and London.

Fifty-two people have been arrested so far as a direct result of that operation, though several individuals remain on the run.

The force is appealing for the public’s help in locating Darren Walcott, 34, from London, Callum Johnson, 25, from Wroughton, Leon Ryan, 39, Thane Pilgrim, 36, and Shane Harper, 23, all from Swindon.

Operation chiefs had reiterated at every stage those not arrested on the day of action would be pursued outside the county if necessary.

With 45 arrests logged on Wednesday, the seven added yesterday demonstrates the intent with which Wiltshire Police is pursuing those it identified as a part of 12-months work undercover by officers.

And now the force is drawing ever nearer to its pre-operation target of 65 arrests, with these five now identified for the public.

Senior investigating officer for the covert operation, Detective Inspector Mike Rees, said: “Wed-nesday’s activity sends a strong message out to anyone who sees Wiltshire as an easy target or Wiltshire Police as a soft touch.

“We will not tolerate anyone setting up a drugs network in Swindon or Wiltshire and we will put all of our resources into bringing those involved to justice.

“As predicted, we will continue to locate and arrest those outstanding suspects in the coming days and will not rest until we have completed this task.

“The operation was the culmination of over a year’s hard work from our undercover officers who are putting themselves at risk by associating with known criminals, often without any protection, to build up the intelligence we need for an operation like this.

“I would like to pay my personal respects to these officers – I have total admiration for what they do.”

Wiltshire Police worked alongside a number of partnership agencies during the day of action including HMRC, UK Border Agency, Swindon Council, drugs charities, local housing associations and the Swindon Community Safety Partnership.

Officers from Home Office Immigration Enforcement team also joined the operation.

As a result, two men were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences. The men are from Afghanistan and Nigeria.

If it is confirmed that they have no legal right to remain in the UK, they will face removal from the country.

Jonathan Watson from Home Office Immigration Enforcement said: “We work closely with the police and other partners to combat illegal immigration and other offending.

“Foreign nationals who are in this country illegally should be in no doubt that they will be caught, arrested and removed from the UK.”

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