An Arnold police officer has helped finally snare a violent robber who has been on the run for over a decade.
Ambrose Nicholas O’Neill – dubbed ‘The Running Man’ by the national media because of his ability to evade capture – threatened to kill a 67-year-old man in a terrifying robbery in Seagrave, Leicestershire, on February 10, 2007.
Following his arrest O’Neill attended the first day of his trial at Leicester Crown Court in July 2008 but then failed to turn up for the rest of the case and despite being sentenced in his absence to eight years in prison in December 2008 he had yet to serve any time – until now.
He was finally brought to book yesterday (January 22) after Arnold officer PC James Gill, an award-winning officer commended in 2019 for his dedication to catching wanted criminals – even in his spare time – picked up O’Neill’s case and made it his mission to get him in cuffs.
PC Gill put in hours of dedicated work, including working extended hours in his free time, to follow up every thread of intelligence.
Recently he was also supported by another officer who works in covert local intelligence and efforts were stepped up as they homed in on their target.
Officers carried out the arrest in the early hours of this morning and finally got a surprised O’Neill in custody. Response officers from Gedling helped carry out the arrest, with support from Lincolnshire Police.
O’Neill has now been taken straight to prison to start his eight-year prison sentence and will appear before Leicester Crown Court at a date to be confirmed, where the sentence could be extended.
Officers also arrested a 41-year-old woman on suspicion of assisting an offender. She remains in police custody.
PC Gill, who is based in Arnold and works on the ‘wanted squad’ which tracks down outstanding offenders, said he was extremely proud to have helped catch O’Neill after all this time.
“He is known as ‘The Running Man’. We knew he had changed his appearance and lived in an area where people do not know him and he had an assumed identity,” he said.
“He was laughing at the police so we were determined to do everything to find him.
“It has taken an incredible amount of work to find him. It’s making these people know their time on the run is over.”
PC Gill, who featured heavily on the television police documentary Bodycam Squad, praised his colleagues for the team effort.
“Policing is not an individual activity, it is a team, ” he said.
“It is because I have been surrounded by good, experienced and motivated officers we have achieved what we have. It is not a solo achievement.”
During the offence, O’Neill, now aged 42, knocked on the victim’s front door posing as a pizza delivery man before pushing him over and punching him in the face. He demanded for the victim to open his safe before leaving empty-handed.
Leicestershire Police launched a man-hunt to find O’Neill after he skipped court in 2008 while colleagues from Nottinghamshire Police also carried out extensive enquiries, as his last known address was in Arnold, but after detectives had exhausted all lines of enquiry the trail went cold.
But determined PC James Gill and an intelligence officer took it upon themselves to launch ‘Operation Gladiolus’ in December 2020 as they continued to work tirelessly in an effort to track O’Neill down, with support from response colleagues on Rota 3.
One piece of recent intelligence that proved to be the start of a major breakthrough in the case was an anonymous tip-off through Crimestoppers which suggested Ambrose may be living with a woman in the Wyberton area, near Boston, in Lincolnshire.
The information didn’t include an exact address so the officers worked relentlessly to develop the intelligence and used a number of tactics to pinpoint his home in Causeway, Wyberton, so they were confident they had found their man.
PC Gill even turned up for work in his own time at 2am the day before the arrest to finalise the details because he was so excited at the prospect of getting O’Neill in custody after all this time.
PC Gill said: “We are delighted with this arrest and it’s taken a lot of hard work to finally reach this point.
“O’Neill had been wanted for a long time and was particularly difficult to find once we received this fresh piece of intelligence we didn’t hesitate to act on it.
“I’m delighted that it paid off and that we’ve now been able to get justice for the victims of this horrific crime.”
Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin, of Nottinghamshire Police, added: “I’d like to commend the excellent work and dogged determination of our officers who went above and beyond in hunting for O’Neill and getting him arrested.
“It’s a shining example of the commitment shown by our officers to ensure criminals are brought to account and justice is delivered to victims of crime.
“Once our officers sank their teeth into this operation they wouldn’t let go. Without their tenacity this fantastic result wouldn’t have been possible.
“They left no stone unturned and a result O’Neill now at last must face the consequences of his actions.
“I’d also like to thank our colleagues at Leicestershire and Lincolnshire for their support during this investigation.”