Gary Williams, a 24 year old man sentenced to six years imprisonment for clown trafficking yesterday, is on the run after all four wheels and both rear doors fell off the police van carrying him to prison.
Last week, the court heard how children’s party organiser, Williams, had been illegally smuggling clowns from Russia and the Ukraine into the UK, transporting them in cramped, dangerous conditions with no food or water. Once in the UK, the costumed entertainers were being put to work for Williams’ Leeds based company, “Clowning Around” – the biggest children’s party entertainment suppliers in the North East of England.
Forced to work for anything up to sixteen hours a day, and receiving little or no pay in return, the clowns lived together in a single room of Williams’ house, with a solitary “slop bucket” providing their only means of sanitation. Police were eventually alerted to the situation after a neighbour became suspicious of what he described as “round the clock horn honking” and “the smell of custard” coming from Williams’ back bedroom.
When officers called round to investigate, they found over a dozen painted harlequins cowering in the room, many of them in serious need of medical attention. Williams was arrested and charged, but was released on bail back in December 2013 so as to be able to meet his Christmas party obligations.
During the three-week trial, Judge Mr Justice Butterfield slammed Williams for his actions, telling him: “You promised these clowns a better life, and instead kept them in conditions not suitable for animals. You made their daily existence a very, very miserable one indeed.”
Added Butterfield: “Though granted they may have looked happy enough at the time.”
The accused focused his gaze on the floor as the jury delivered their guilty verdict and sentence was passed. Members of the Electric Cabaret – a silent clown mime group who had been watching from the gallery – gesticulated wildly and scowled in an exaggerated manner as Williams was led from the dock to begin his jail term.
Williams was handcuffed and secured in the back of a police van, ready to be taken to Leeds Prison to start his sentence. As the driver turned the key in the ignition, however, all four wheels are reported to have simultaneously dropped off the vehicle with an audible “boing,” and rolled away. Seconds later, the rear doors securing the prisoner inside the van fell outwards, making a sound like a disheartened trombone, and giving Williams the opportunity to make his break for freedom.
Police are still investigating the cause of the vehicle malfunction, but are confident they will succeed in recapturing the fugitive within the next few hours. The public are advised not to approach him, particularly if they’re dressed as a clown at the time.
All sixteen clowns smuggled into the UK by Williams have now been deported to their countries of origin.