December 2010

Police warn of danger after paedophile suspect’s months on run

Police chiefs said they were “following procedure” after admitting they did not warn the public for five months that an alleged “dangerous” paedophile had jumped bail and was on the run.

Avon and Somerset police issued a nationwide appeal last night and warned that Robert Hands, who is on the run from facing 26 charges of serious sex offences against children, was “a potential danger to the public” and could be anywhere in the West.

The 53-year-old from Burnham-on-Sea failed to appear at Bristol Crown Court in July this year, and has not been seen since. Police issued an appeal to find him five months after the non-appearance in court.

He has been charged with four counts of rape, nine counts of sexual activity with a child, three counts of indecent assault on a girl under 13, three counts of indecency with a child, two counts of inciting sexual activity with a child and five counts of making indecent images of children.

The offences span a range of dates from 1999 to 2009, but Hands was given bail by the courts when he did appear earlier this year.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and police said “numerous” attempts to find him had been made in areas he has previously been linked to.

“These include the West Midlands, West Mercia, Humberside and Devon,” said a police spokesman. “He is also connected to addresses in the Worcester, Droitwich, Bilston, Hull and Teignmouth areas.”

Police described Hands as white, around 5ft 9in tall and of a heavy build.

He has shoulder-length brown, greying hair which is sometimes tied in a ponytail.

He has a grey beard, sometimes in a goatee style and sometimes full face, blue eyes and a scar on the left side of his abdomen. Police said he is known to “considerably change” his appearance.

“Mr Hands is potentially a danger to the public,” said a police spokesman. “Anyone who may know his whereabouts is asked to call Avon and Somerset police on             0845 456 7000       or contact your local police if not in the Avon and Somerset area.

“The public were not notified initially of his disappearance because every avenue for police investigation to find him has to be exhausted,” she added.

“The police have to act on intelligence in every single location and area in which they know he has links and officers followed procedure in this case,” she said.

The Western Daily Press can reveal that Hands was given bail despite going missing before – back in March 2009. Avon and Somerset police issued an appeal for him then within a week of him disappearing after attending a family funeral in the Midlands.