A ‘dangerous’ escaped convict has been recaptured after sparking a 28-day nationwide manhunt by going on the run.
Nicholas Overton, aged 35, formerly of Cockayne Place, Meersbrook, Sheffield, was branded a ‘significant risk to the public’ when he was jailed for a series of armed robberies in 2006.
Overton carried out the raids, including one at the Top Shop off-licence, in Aughton Lane, Swallownest, with accomplice Nigel Beever, also from Sheffield, who was jailed for 14 years.
Last month, while allowed out of jail on a day release programme for good behaviour, Overton failed to return to his cell at HMP Thorn Cross in Warrington.
After every police force in the country was alerted to his disappearance, Overton was tracked down to a house in Crewe and was arrested in a dawn raid.
He is also to be quizzed over a knifepoint robbery at a Coop store in Haslington, near Crewe, which occurred only days after he was reported missing by prison bosses.
Officers are also looking into the possibility the raid was linked to other armed robberies at a nearby off licence and shops in the Macclesfield area.
A 38-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of harbouring an escaped prisoner.
Overton, who went on the run on 22nd August, was jailed for 18 years for a string of 23 gunpoint robberies carried out on shops across five counties over a two-month period.
He and his accomplice were said to have got a ‘sick thrill’ from their crimes.
Their total haul was just £8,500 – but some victims left traumatised by the raids were too afraid to return to work.
The men were caught after their getaway car was spotted in Sheffield.
Police described their crime spree as a ‘particularly protracted and worrying series of armed robberies’.
One officer said the pair “got more confident and brazen, and weren’t going to stop until they were caught.
“They clearly enjoyed what they were doing,” he said.
Victims thought they were going to be shot, and were in fear for their lives.
Overton had previous convictions for theft, deception, possessing heroin, perverting the course of justice, burglary, and a knifepoint robbery.
Concerns have been raised about Overton’s escape, and why he had been allowed out of jail on day release seven years into his 18-year term.
A friend of a shop worker held up at gunpoint by Overton at the Swallownest off licence said: “It’s disgraceful - what was he doing out of prison?”
A Prison Service spokesman said: “Release on temporary licence is used to prepare prisoners for their eventual release from custody.”
“We are examining the circumstances of this case to identify any lessons that can be learned.”