A CONVICTED rapist who fled to Thailand and was arrested following the death of a prostitute has been jailed for four years at Worcester Crown Court for drugs offences.

Ex-soldier Reece Vella, who was released without charge from the Thailand prison and was flown back to the country by the British authorities earlier this year, looked down to the ground when the sentence was given to him by judge Nicholas Cole on Monday.

The 27-year-old, formerly of Callow End near Worcester but who has been in custody since his returning to the UK, had previously admitted being concerned in the supply of crack cocaine and heroin.

Vella initially pleaded not guilty to those drug charges and a trial date was set for October 2017. But after initially getting it put back for ill-health Vella flew to Thailand that November, and in doing so he failed without reasonable excuse to comply with the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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That related to his sentence in a young offenders institution for rape and common assault in 2012, after raping a teenager when he became jealous over her at a party.

Vella was required to notify police if he ever intended to leave the country, but the former Royal Logistics Corps soldier pleaded guilty to not having done so by going on the Thailand trip. He also admitted a further charge related to the bail act.

William Dudley, prosecuting, explained that drug offences took place in October 2016 when police were on patrol in Wylds Lane and his car came to their attention.

Mr Dudley said: "Police saw two men return to the vehicle, one of them was this defendant. This defendant got out the car and fled.

"There was a pursuit and an area search was carried out. Effectively it ended at a dead end. Two mobiles and £28 cash was on him, but (behind a wall) there were cling film with crack cocaine and heroin (packets) - with a combined value of £610."

Mr Dudley said his car was searched and underneath the steering wheel officers found kinder eggs, "commonly used by drug dealers", that had traces of drugs on them.

The solicitor explained DNA on the cling film was also matched with Vella's and mobile phones were linked to him through messages that showed he had been using them in the supply of drugs.

The solicitor said the crown's submission was that he played a "significant role in the street dealing operation". In not informing police, Mr Dudley called it a "deliberate failure to follow requirements"

Mr Dudley said: "He was on bail. He absconded. He was avoiding justice."

Mr Dudley added Vella had a number of previous convictions include burglary, violence and indecent behaviour at a police station.

He was arrested in Thailand after a prostitute fell to her death from a balcony in early 2018.

Mr Afzal, defending said: "Mr Vella is a young man who had made some poor decisions.

"He had his head in the sand (when he left).

"He has had to endure in the last two years a very terrible and frightening experience. He was incarcerated in Thailand, he was kept against his will by the authorities.

"He denied any involvement in causing her death. He was released and immediately made his way to the British Embassy.

"There was no mystery (to them) who he was."

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The judge rejected the submission about living in poor conditions in prison, saying: "it was his choice to leave the country".

However the judge did accept Vella had only been in breach for two months before his arrest, at which point he would not have been able to return home of his own choice.

Mr Afzal said he had performed only a limited role in the drug operation, and had become involved as he was in debt to the drug dealers.

Sentencing him, Mr Cole said: "You were involved in a county lines operation, you played a significant role. "You flew to Thailand, that was a deliberate action, you remained at large.

"You have shown remorse.

"I am satisfied these offences are so serious, only a custodial sentence can be imposed."

Vella was given a total sentence of 51 months, of which he was told he would serve half.