Published: 14:16, 27 February 2020
| Updated: 14:24, 27 February 2020
A wanted man who escaped from Maidstone Prison almost 30 years ago has been found and put back behind bars.
Charles Lynch was jailed in 1991 for theft, fraud and forgery. But just one year into his seven-year sentence, he absconded from the prison and went on the run.
He has since been using at least 40 aliases to keep under the radar.
During his 28-year escapade, Lynch had also been convicted and jailed for a number of offences in France, including possessing indecent images of children.
The 64-year-old career criminal was tracked down while attempting to smuggle illegal migrants into the UK on a yacht.
The National Crime Agency began investigating when his vessel, a 46-foot chartered motor cruiser Saquerlotte III, was intercepted by the Border Force off the coast of Littlehampton, West Sussex.
Eight Albanian nationals were found on board - five men, two women and a child.
Lynch claimed to be a German national, Wolfram Steidl.
But checks by NCA investigators found that his true identity was Charles Lynch, wanted after going on the run from Maidstone Prison.
NCA investigators believe Lynch had used various aliases to evade the authorities during his time on the run, and he was found in possession of a selection of false identity documents, including a Danish driving license and Romanian ID card.
Analysis of the Saquerlotte III’s movements prior to Lynch’s arrest showed he had made a number of trips between France and the UK, travelling between numerous marinas along the south coast, including Dover.
This comes after a freedom of information request by the Kent Messenger in 2016 revealed there were 14 inmates still at large afterescaping from facilities in the county in the last decade, including a killer and people smuggler. The Ministry of Justice refused to reveal who they were, citing data protection laws.
However, this number did not include Lynch, being as he absconded more than 10 years ago.
Lynch pleaded guilty to one count of facilitating illegal immigration and two counts of possessing a false ID document.
He was jailed for three years and eight months at Portsmouth Crown Court.
He will also have to serve the remainder of his sentence from the 1991 conviction consecutively.
Border Force senior officer Andy Vidamour said: "When we boarded the vessel we found that Lynch had gone to some effort to disguise his criminal intentions.
"He was able to stay free so long by staying on the move and creating a web of aliases for himself"
"His passengers were all wearing branded polo shirts and Lynch said he was providing them with navigational training.
"However, his story did not stand up to scrutiny.
"Most damningly, he could not speak Albanian and his passengers could not speak English.
"This was an important Border Force detection that was the crucial first step in putting a man with a lengthy criminal history back behind bars."
NCA regional head of investigations, Shane Williams, added: "People smugglers like Lynch have no concern for the safety of those they transport, they are only interested in exploiting the desperation of others for profit and their own greed.
"Since his initial arrest our investigators have been able to identify him as a career criminal who has been on the run from prison for 28 years.
"He was able to stay free so long by staying on the move and creating a web of aliases for himself. We suspect he has used dozens of different identities during his career.
"That such a dangerous man is now back in prison is testament to the work of NCA officers and our partners in Border Force, who played a key role in his capture.
“Together we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and bring to justice the organised criminals involved in people smuggling.”