The past finally caught up with cold blooded killer Justin Clarke today (Tues) when he was found guilty by a jury of murdering a man nearly 25 years ago.
Clarke shot dead Paul Milburn during a drug dealing “scam.”
But following the killing in April 1993 Clarke, then 37 years old, went on the run and fled to Germany, becoming one of Britain’s most wanted criminals.
He was to evade capture by the police for the next 23 years until he was eventually arrested in Berlin in September 2016 and brought back to the UK.
Today (Tues) Clarke, now 62, was found guilty by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court of murdering Paul Milburn in a quiet country lane on the outskirts of St Albans.
Clarke was not in court to hear the jury’s verdict.
Throughout the two week trial he had refused to come into court, preferring to remain in his cell at Bellmarsh Prison, where he has been held on remand.
He will be sentenced tomorrow (Weds) for the murder, along with two other charges the jury convicted him of today – conspiring to defraud and conspiracy to supply a class B drug.
The shooting on the afternoon of Monday April 26 1993 took place as Clarke tried to con Milburn out of thousands of pounds by buying blocks of wax made to look like cannabis resin.
As the fake drugs were about to be transferred to the boot of Mr Milburn’s car in a quiet lane, Clarke suddenly appeared with a US army style .45 automatic pistol and shot him as he sat behind the wheel of a Saab car.
The shooting happened in Noke Lane on the outskirts of St Albans.
Prosecutor Christopher Donnellan QC told the jury at the start of the trial “He left the scene and evaded arrest for this offence until September 2016 and so, today, nearly a quarter of a century after those events, this case comes to trial.”
Mr Donnellan said the shooting happened as Clarke was attempting to “scam” Mr Milburn into buying fake drugs.
Clarke, a former Merseyside doorman who had joined the French Foreign Legion, had moved south in the late 1970’s and was married to a solicitor and was studying law himself.
By the early 1990’s, the jury were told that he and his associates were aware of numerous frauds being operated targeting drug dealers.
One fraud involved wax blocks being made to look like cannabis resin blocks.
Mr Donnellan went on: “Subsequently, that was the scam they decided to carry out on Mr Milburn.”
The court was told that the plan involved obtaining paraffin wax from an arts and crafts shop and then melting it to make it look like the illegal Class B drug.
The jury heard that gold paper was taken from Ferrero Rocher chocolate sweets and put on each block so that each appeared to have a gold seal.
Each block was carefully wrapped and coffee granules sprinkled over them to make them look authentic.
Mr Donnellan said that Clarke and his associates had put a price of between £2,200 and £2,300 for each block of the fake drug.
Contact had been made with Paul Milburn, who lived in Surrey, and it was arranged that the deal would take place on Monday 26 April 1993.
The court heard that Mr Milburn, who was a builder and also a painter & decorator, was known to sell cannabis from time to time.
Late that morning Mr Milburn, 43, from Walton-on-Thames, drove a borrowed Saab Turbo sports car into Hertfordshire, intending to buy the cannabis.
The court was told that Mr Milburn would have been wary if he saw that Clarke was involved in the deal and so the plan was that he (Clarke) would remain hidden out of sight on the back seat of a vehicle.
Clarke and his associates made their way to the outskirts of St Albans and to an area close to the Noke Hotel.
The jury heard how, that afternoon, Mr Milburn made contact with a member of Clarke’s gang and in a Little Chef car park agreed to buy 9 bars of what he thought was cannabis resin for £2,250 each.
From there he was told to drive into nearby Noke Lane.
Clarke was in one of three cars that drove into the lane that afternoon.
Up until now, he hadn’t been seen by Mr Milburn and, in the lane, he quickly got out of a vehicle and hid in some nearby bushes.
The jury heard that it was in the lane as the wax blocks were to be transferred to Mr Milburn’s vehicle, that the defendant suddenly stepped out from the bushes.
“Suddenly the defendant emerged from bushes and he had a gun,” said the prosecutor.
He said one witness present at the scene was to later describe the weapon as a US Army .45 automatic pistol.
The jury was told that Clarke went up to the side of the Saab where Mr Milburn was sitting and pointed the gun through the partially opened window.
Mr Milburn was seen to “cower” before trying to drive away, mounting a verge.
The court was told that Clarke was running alongside the vehicle trying to smash the window.
Eventually the glass window broke, said the prosecutor, and Clarke was able to reach into the car.
“One shot was fired at very close range. The bullet entered through the right shoulder and out of the left arm and embedded in the passenger seat.
“As it past through, it caused fatal damage internally to Mr Milburn and, very shortly afterwards, he died.”
The court was told that Clarke and the others quickly made their way from the lane and Clarke then went on the run.
He became one of the most wanted fugitives in Britain and featured in a number of TV time appeals by the police.