A EUROPE-WIDE manhunt has been launched after a pensioner accused of raping a child fled the country.
Frank Burgon, 76, from Hartlepool, is to face trial for numerous serious sex attack allegations.
But Burgon is believed to be holed up somewhere in the Mediterranean in a bid to avoid justice, and a European-wide warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Burgon was due to be at Teesside Crown Court yesterday morning for an administrative hearing, but failed to turn up.
It was the third court date in a row he has missed since November when he denied charges of rape, attempted rape and three counts of indecent assault against a child.
Prosecutor Christopher Knox said: “The defendant was a fisherman. He has, I understand, absconded.
“He is believed to have absconded comprehensively in that he is outside the jurisdiction and there is no obvious indication that he can be returned.
“My understanding is he has a boat, or some boat is available to him in the Mediterranean somewhere.
“He has certainly not kept in touch and these matters have now been going on for some time.”
Burgon, of Field House Farm, Dalton Piercy, was due to stand trial at the crown court on March 5 but he did not show up and the case was adjourned.
A new date was set in May but he failed to attend again, and the case was re-listed again for yesterday.
Mr Knox added: “Bearing in mind he was released on bail in November last year and has conspicuously failed to keep in contact since then, in my respectful submission, it’s quite clear he was aware of the date of the trial on March 5.”
Burgon now faces being tried in his absence if he does not attend court when his trial is next set to go ahead.
Money which Burgon’s partner previously put up to guarantee he would answer bail could also be forfeit if he does not show on the next occasion.
Judge George Moorhouse said the trial is unlikely to take place for at least three or four months given the situation surrounding his whereabouts.
A police spokesman said: “Cleveland Police are currently investigating a number of historic sexual allegations which we take extremely seriously and we are actively seeking the alleged offender who may or may not be residing outside of the UK.
“We ask that anyone with any information regarding Frank Burgon contacts Detective Sergeant Andy King on Cleveland Police’s non emergency number 101.”