A British contract killer who used a fake Irish passport to flee to Spain has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison following an international investigation. The hit-man hid out in Spain for four years using the names Michael Lynch, Ronald Farmer and O’Flynn.

James Tomkins (61) murdered Rocky Dawson in front of his children and then fled to the Costa del Sol resort of Puerto Banus, in Spain, using a fake Irish passport. Having murdered the 24-year-old father, in what police believe was a case of mistaken identity, in 2008 Tomkins was listed as one of Britain’s ten most wanted criminals by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in Operation Captura, a group set up to find fugitive hiding out in Spain.

Last August, Metropolitan Police issued a reward of $32,232 (£20,000) for the capture of the contract killer and launched an extensive manhunt. Appeals were also made on the BBC TV show “Crimewatch." He was soon traced to Marbella, arrested and extradited.

Within three months of the murder, Tomkins fled to Spain using a fake Irish passport in the name of Michael Lynch. He spent four years leading a relaxed lifestyle in the south of Spain with the help of a network of well-connected friends. The police found the fake Irish passport with him when they tracked him down last August.

Tomkins, nicknamed “Jimbles," was found guilty after a two-week trial at Woolich Crown Court and has now been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. The  Daily Mail reported that he showed no emotion when he was convicted. He has denied any involvement in the murder. The verdict was met by cheers from Dawson’s family.

Dawson was shot in cold blood, in the back, as he put his children, aged two and six, into his car on the driveway of his parent’s home. Tomkins shot Dawson from the passenger seat of a Land Rover Freelander. He opened fire with a handgun in what is being described as a “deliberate, calculated and cold-blooded” drive-by shooting on May 2, 2006. His associated who drove the vehicle, Christopher Pearman, was captured in 2006 and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Lawyer for the prosecution, Martin Heslop, said “there remains a terrible possibility that Rocky Dawson's killers had mistaken him for someone else ... You may think this murder has all the hallmarks of a contract killing, an assassination or execution.

“It was clearly very carefully planned in advance.

“Tomkins and Pearman plainly knew where Rocky Dawson's parents lived and he was a regular visitor to that address.

“The two men were sufficiently confident to shoot him as he tended to his children, no doubt thinking their victim's attention would be on his children rather than passing cars.”

Having spent four years in the south of Spain, Tomkins had changed his appearance dramatically. He had cut his hair, which had grayed, short and shaved his beard. Having become aware that the police were after him he rarely went out during the day in the summer season when British tourists might recognize him.

A police source told the Daily Mail: “He could have walked past 1,000 times and I wouldn't have recognized him.”

Plain-clothes police from Madrid and Malaga stormed his address in Puerto Banus after a tip-off. The hit-man attempted to escape by jumping out of a window but was trailed by a helicopter and the police on the ground. He was extradited to Britain on September 15, 2010.

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