The cousin of former Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard has been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking offences after handing himself in to police as the "pressure had become too much" following years on the run. Robert Gerrard, 53, made arrangements to surrender himself at Central Park Police Station in Manchester after spending three years as third on the UK's 'most wanted fugitives abroad' list.
Gerrard is accused of using a café in Rotterdam as a front for a worldwide cocaine trafficking operation. Café de Ketel, which could only be entered via a buzzer system and was strictly for known faces, is suspected of being a meeting place for criminals and drug cartels to negotiate the selling of drugs in a worldwide operation.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) raided the café in 2013, but could not locate Gerrard. The NCA then appealed on Crimestoppers for information to help locate the suspect. They were aided by Meld Misdaad Anoniem [Dutch Crimestoppers], and Dutch law enforcement as part of Operation Return, which seeks to find British fugitives in the Netherlands.
Gerrard's arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to import cocaine comes after two other fugitives – Matthew Sammon and Mohammed Alam – were captured in Spain as part of the Operation Captura, a separate fugitive campaign run by the NCA and Crimestoppers.
Gerrard appeared at Manchester Magistrates Court on Wednesday (26 October) to face the charges. He was remanded in custody until his next hearing at Manchester Crown Court on 23 November. The 53-year-old is the second cousin of the Anfield legend, who now plays his football in the US for LA Galaxy.
Greg McKenna, regional head of investigations for the NCA, said: "Robert Gerrard handing himself in shows the impact we are having with our Most Wanted campaigns. Three arrests in under a week is a tremendous result.
"We don't know at this stage how long Gerrard has been back in the UK for, but he told our officers that the pressure of being on the run had got too much for him.
"The fugitives on our 'most wanted' list really do have nowhere to hide. I would urge any of the remaining ones to take note – save yourself the trouble and hand yourself in because we will never stop hunting you and you will face justice."
As part of Operation Return, Gerrard's picture appeared in the news both here and overseas. Since the appeal officers from the NCA were pursuing him with the help of the Dutch National Police, following up numerous leads on locations in the Netherlands and the UK where he was thought to be hiding.
Roger Critchell, director of operations for Crimestoppers, said: "The fact Robert Gerrard handed himself in to police is again an indication that when the pressure mounts, hiding places become harder to find.
"This is a great result as it follows two fugitive arrests in the last week from our sister campaign targeting those on the run in Spain. These campaigns really do work."