A DRUGS smuggler jailed for his part in Ireland's biggest ever cocaine haul has been arrested in Spain after escaping prison in the UK.
Gerard Hagan, 29, from Liverpool, was nabbed outside a gym near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona where he had gone to work out.
Hagan was jailed for ten years in November 2008 after admitting his involvement in a botched bid to smuggle cocaine worth €440m ashore in Mizen, Co Cork.
Spanish police said today the British fugitive had been on the run since escaping Kirkham Prison in Preston, Lancs on July 6 2012 following his transfer from a prison in Ireland two years earlier.
He is thought to have been alone when armed police from a specialist anti-drugs unit surrounded him and arrested him last Thursday morning, around 11.30am.
He was taken to a nearby police station so he could be formally identified before being driven to Madrid for an extradition hearing.
He was last night thought to be in custody in a jail near the Spanish capital where he will be held before being flown back to Britain.
Hagan was recruited to help smuggle the massive cocaine cargo into Europe when he living on the Costa del Sol.
He was paid €6,200 to take part in the operation, organised by ex Met Police drugs squad detective Michael Daly who was later jailed for 22 years.
He was told to go to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago and board a catamaran called the Lucky Day loaded with more than 1.5 tons of cocaine bound for Ireland.
The plot, which involved several other Brits, was scuppered when they overloaded a smaller boat they were using to ferry the drugs ashore and one of them filled a spare fuel tank with diesel instead of petrol.
The inflatable vessel begin to sink in stormy seas and Hagan ran to a farmhouse so he could help for another of the gang left struggling in the water after managing to get ashore.
He told the local farmer he and a friend had been fishing and their boat had gone down.
Rescuers found the ailing man, Martin Wanden, floating in the sea surrounded by bales of cocaine.
Warden and Perry Wharrie, 48, from Loughton in Essex, were both jailed for 30 years by Cork Circuit Criminal Court. The fourth member of the gang, Joe Daly, 41, from Kent, got 25 years.
It emerged at the trial Wharrie was a convicted cop killer who had been freed from prison early in 2005 after serving 17 years of a life sentence for murdering PC Frank Mason in 1988.
He shot the officer in the back as he tried to stop a bank robbery in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
The record seizure was described by a prosecutor at the time as "the largest cocaine seizure in Britain and Ireland."
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain, who sentenced Hagan's three accomplices, described the crime as being "at the top end of the scale in its organisation, the money spent and the numbers involved in the operation."
Ex police chief Daly, 52, was jailed for 22 years at Blackfriars Central Court in central London in March 2010 after pleading guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine.
Co-conspirator Alan Wells, a 59-year-old former firefighter from Sidcup, Kent, was jailed for 15 years at the same sentencing hearing.
Mechanic John Edney was accused of arranging three Land Rovers for use by the drugs smuggling gang.
But he was cleared after telling a jury he thought the 4x4s were going to be used at a fishing complex in France and said he had no idea there was any link with a drugs plot.
The street where Hagan was arrested is close to the spot where Dublin gangster Paddy Doyle was murdered in a drive-by shooting in February 2008.
Gary Hutch, a nephew of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, was driving the BMW 4x4 in which he and Doyle were ambushed.
Earlier this year it was reported leaked Spanish police files showed hitman Doyle, 27, was murdered on the orders of Irish gangland boss Christy Kinahan after drugs money went missing.
Spanish police refused to make any official comment.
By Gerard Couzens