"Maggot Pete" behind bars

A businessman who fled Britain after supplying the food chain with infected meat is finally behind bars after a Europe-wide hunt.

Peter Roberts, 73, escaped to a life of luxury, relaxing in a villa with a swimming-pool, after masterminding the biggest-ever fraud of its kind.

He supplied supermarkets, schools, old people's homes and hospitals with chicken and turkey fit only to be made into pet food or fertiliser. Dangerously substandard meat was churned out by his company, Denby Poultry Products, of Denby, near Derby. Its rundown factory was infested with rats and frequently flooded by sewage and was known by disgusted locals as "the knackers' yard".

Four years ago, after a huge fraud trial costing millions of pounds, Roberts - nicknamed 'Maggot Pete' - was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud. But the then 68-year-old skipped bail and was only found two weeks ago, working in northern Cyprus at a car-hire firm.

He was deported back to Britain and on 22 August at Derby Crown Court, Judge John Wait sentenced him to a further year's jail on top of the five-year term he received in his absence at his trial.

Some of the chickens and turkeys involved had been branded high-risk waste and should have been incinerated, or turned into fertiliser. Others had been categorised as low-risk but by law should still have been used only as pet food rather than allowed to enter the human food-chain.

Ben Nolan QC, prosecuting, said: "The victims were the companies, firms and consumers who bought poultry believing it to be fit for human consumption when in reality it was condemned meat."

The trial heard how the exact amount of "illicit" poultry that found its way to outlets such as supermarkets and household-name chains was not known. But a jury was told the illegal supply went on for six years, resulting in "enormous profits" from a turnover involving "many hundreds of thousands of pounds".

Det Insp Neil Perry, of Derbyshire police, said: "He was living with his wife in a villa with a swimming-pool when he should have been serving his sentence here. Justice has been done today."