Fugitive fraudster appears at Leeds Crown Court after 15 years on the run from justice

A notorious Leeds fraudster has appeared in court 15 years after he fled the UK to avoid prison.

Thursday, 13th June 2019, 3:18 pm
Christopher Woodhead appeared before Leeds Crown Court after spending 15 years as a fugitive abroad.

A notorious Leeds fraudster has appeared in court after spending 15 years of the run abroad.

Christopher Woodhead appeared before Leeds Crown Court this afternoon, less than 24 hours after being brought back to the UK from Spain by West Yorkshire Police.

Woodhead disappeared in 2004, shortly before he was due to stand trial over a £400,000 swindle involving his Leeds-based housing repair firms.

He was found guilty in his absence and given a six-year jail term, with the judge in the case branding him an “amoral fraudster”.

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Woodhead, now 66, appeared in the dock where he admitted failing to surrender to custody on September 10, 2004.

The case was adjourned to allow Woodhead time to obtain legal representation before he is sentenced.

Woodhead told the court that lawyers based in London were representing him.

The defendant said he had not had a chance to speak with a solicitor as he had only arrived in the UK from Madrid last night.

Judge Robin Mairs adjourned sentencing until July 11.

The judge told Woodhead he would be returned to custody to begin serving the six-year sentence which was imposed in 2004.

The YEP reported last month how Woodhead had finally been arrested after being at large for a decade and a half.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirmed the arrest took place in Spain but was unable to make any further comment.

According to unconfirmed reports, Woodhead was detained in the town of San Pedro de Alcantara, near Marbella.

One of his last known addresses prior to vanishing had been Merchants Quay, an apartment complex in the middle of Leeds.

He has also lived at Sandingham Drive, Moortown, Leeds.

His trial heard he controlled three Sheepscar-based firms – Midland Coating Company, Seal Point and the Weather Protection Company.

The YEP launched an investigation into Midland’s sales tactics in 1998 after an elderly widow from Pudsey was persuaded to spend £8,000 on a repair job that took just four hours to carry out.

Similar cases came to light and by the end of the year Midland had gone into voluntary liquidation, owing £360,000.

Fraud experts later found Woodhead had “systematically milked” Midland and his other firms, with more than £400,000 being siphoned off from their accounts.

He was charged in 2002 with offences under the Theft Act 1968 but, the day before his trial was scheduled to start at Leeds Crown Court in June 2004, his solicitors received word from him that he would not be attending.

A confiscation order for £428,089 was imposed on Woodhead, again in his absence, at Southwark Crown Court in September 2004.

The SFO said in 2017 that the confiscation order remained outstanding, with accumulated interest having taken the amount to be repaid to nearly £850,000.