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Britain’s most wanted woman in Spanish prison cell after nearly decade on run

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ritain’s most wanted woman is languishing in a Spanish prison cell after being arrested following nearly a decade on the run.

Privately-educated university graduate Sarah Panitzke, 47, was held on Sunday by officers from an elite-Madrid based police unit as she walked her dog near her home.

The property developer’s daughter was wanted over a massive mobile phone VAT fraud in which she played a key role by laundering up to one billion pounds.

She was sentenced in her absence to eight years in jail in August 2013 after absconding during her trial at Kingston Crown Court and she has been on the run ever since. She pleaded not guilty.

UK holidaymakers were asked to help catch the convicted fraudster, from Fulford near York, in a recent appeal for information on the whereabouts of fugitive killers, sex attackers and drug traffickers.

She was said to have “disappeared into thin air” after becoming the only woman on the National Crime Agency’s Most Wanted List. Monday night she was said to be in a prison near Madrid ahead of her expected extradition.

Well-placed sources confirmed she had been held on Sunday.

The arrest was carried out by the Civil Guard Central Operative Unit’s Fugitive Task Force.

The specialist Madrid-based unit was the same one that arrested Irish fugitive gang boss Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch last August near his hideaway in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola.

One insider said: “Panitze was out walking her dog when she was arrested.”

Initial reports said the 5ft 7in blonde had been held in the town of Vilanova i la Geltru a 45-minute drive south of Barcelona and close to the famous resort of Sitges, although police are expected to confirm later that she was arrested in a village in the Catalan province of Tarragona.

Spanish news website El Confidencial, which broke news of Sunday’s arrest late on Monday, said she was fighting her forced return to the UK. Panitzke was included on the list of Britain’s most wanted fugitives after absconding in May 2013 before the end of her trial as a senior member of a crime group involved in VAT fraud.

Eighteen members of the crime group received sentences totalling 135 years. Police said in an appeal in August 2019 she was responsible for laundering approximately one billion pounds.

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