Archive - Tuesday, 22 June 2004
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Drugs baron quizzed over Billy Webb murder
A JAILED drugs baron has been questioned by detectives investigating the murder of his former boss, gangland leader Billy Webb.
Officers from Greater Manchester Police's major crime unit visited 37-year-old John Barber in Long Lartin jail, Worcestershire, where he is serving a 22-year sentence for flooding the streets of Bolton with heroin and crack cocaine.
Detectives believe Barber may have information about the death of his former boss Webb, however, the Bolton Evening News has been told that Barber refused to answer questions.
Webb, aged 42, was the boss of the drugs gang and Barber, from Breightmet, was a fellow "director" of the organisation when it was smashed by police following an undercover operation.
The pair, along with associates Lee Bonney, Alan Bentley and two others, were due to stand trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
But six months before the court case started, Webb was shot dead at his flat in Wigan in May, 2001. Webb's 21-year-old girlfriend was also shot in the arm.
When the trial finally started, Barber, who had struck up a relationship with Victoria Dudson, a legal assistant working as part of his defence team, fled before the verdict.
He and Victoria disappeared together in January, 2002, and went on the run.
An international manhunt was launched and, after rumours that they were in Barbados, Tenerife and Mexico, they were traced seven months later to Sant Pol de Mar on Spain's Costa Brava.
Police swooped and arrested Barber in a phone box following a tip off from a member of the public.
Dudson, who had given birth to their son, Connor, while they were hiding out using false German documents, was found at their villa in nearby Calella de Mar.
After an extradition process, Barber was finally returned to Britain, in handcuffs, 18 months after he fled, to start the 22-year sentence.
Two men accused of conspiring to murder Webb were cleared of the charge when they appeared at Liverpool Crown Court in March last year.
Mr Justice Hunt ruled there was insufficient evidence for a jury to properly convict Brian Roper and Paul Swann.
The pair did plead guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving false alibis to police. Roper was jailed for 18 months and Swann was given a two-year conditional discharge.
The killers of Webb, who have never been caught, had let themselves into his flat with a key and shot him as he slept in a "planned and calculated execution".