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Video: Award for Nottinghamshire Police team after snaring violent robber

Dubbed ‘The Running Man’ after evading capture for over a decade, a violent robber was finally caught thanks to the determined efforts of police officers and police staff alike.

Ambrose O’Neill skipped his 2008 trial over an attack on an antiques dealer and his wife at their home. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in his absence but spent years at large.

He was finally brought to book in January last year after a team of police officers and staff picked up O’Neill’s case and made it their unflinching mission to get him in cuffs.

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Now, the team have been recognised at Nottinghamshire Police’s annual Force Awards, scooping the One Team (Operational award).

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The team put in hours of dedicated work, including working extended hours in their free time, to follow up every thread of intelligence – and it paid off.

“The media portrayed him as someone who was laughing at cops,” recalled PC James Gill, who played a pivotal role in capturing O’Neill.

“As soon as we saw those reports, he became our number one priority.”

The brutal crime took place in 2007 when O’Neill knocked on his victim’s front door in Seagrave, Leicestershire, posing as a pizza delivery man.

When the 67-year-old victim opened the door, O’Neill pushed him over, punched him in the face and demanded he open a safe, threatening to kill him. The man’s wife was also pushed to the ground and kicked in the face.

But O’Neill ultimately left empty-handed and was later arrested.

O’Neill attended the first day of his trial at Leicester Crown Court but then went on the run.

Despite extensive enquiries across the country, he was not located and O’Neill remained at large having not served any of his eight year sentence.

That was until late 2020 when new intelligence linked O’Neill to Lincolnshire.

Thus, Operation Gladiolus was launched, with PC Gill, a response officer based at Jubilee House, and his colleague PC Andy Ryback playing an instrumental role in tracking down the wanted man.

Chief Inspector Chris Pearson, who nominated the team for the One Team award, described the team’s work as truly inspirational.

He said: “Having been approached by PC Gill, PC Ryback started a thorough investigation into O’Neill, balancing the extensive and complicated enquiries alongside his usual day job at Gedling.

“He volunteered to work additional hours in his own time to develop the intelligence case around O’Neill and sought assistance from colleagues across the organisation based in Force Intelligence, RTIU and Financial Investigation.

“He also liaised with colleagues in both Lincolnshire and Leicestershire Police to obtain a full understanding of the enquiries that had already been completed in the hunt for O’Neill.”

A number of enquiries were carried out but there was no footprint of O’Neill at all, showing that it was a well-planned and executed evasion of justice.

“He had effectively disappeared from all the places you would usually leave a trace of yourself,” said Insp Pearson. “This naturally caused significant distress for the victims.”

The breakthrough came when enquiries led the team to a property in Lincolnshire.

Ch Insp Pearson said: “PC Ryback produced a thorough briefing pack of his findings and the ‘Rota 3’ team at Gedling volunteered to return to work on a rest day to travel to Lincolnshire and detain O’Neill.”

Recalling the day the team honed in on O’Neill, PC Gill said: “We arrived at work at 2am in the morning and all sat around the briefing table. There were maps and detailed explanations of what was expected from each individual, because absolutely nobody wanted this to go wrong.

“It was a tense atmosphere but really exciting nonetheless.”

The team arrived at the address at 4.20am and successfully detained O’Neill.

Describing the moment they arrested him, PC Ryback said: “Hearing the words ‘we’ve got him’ after all this work was a really, really satisfying moment.”

Ch Insp Pearson said the team fully deserved the recognition they received at this year’s Force Awards ceremony, which was held on 9 March.

He said: “It is clear that the operation would not have been a success had it not been for the collaborative working and extensive enquiries carried out by PC Ryback, PC Gill, Gedling Rota 3 and the wider colleagues.

“Each of them played a part in order to work as a team and it was a real pleasure to see the hard working, enthusiastic nature of all of the police officers and staff involved in this operation.

“Their ‘can do’ attitude effectively meant that they carried out more extensive, detailed enquiries than had ever been done in the hunt for O’Neill and it was no surprise to me that this approach eventually paid off.”

A television documentary highlighting some of the winners at this year’s Force Awards was broadcast on Saturday night (12 March).

Highlights include the dramatic moment officers finally brought justice to the door of a criminal after more than a decade on the run, the terrifying moment officers put their own lives on the line to save a man covered in petrol, and a look at some of the people with one of the most difficult jobs you can imagine – investigating some of the most serious and devastating collisions on our roads.

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