A VICIOUS robber who kicked a man’s head ‘like a rugby ball’ went on the run for four months while sending taunts to police that he could not be caught.

But justice finally caught up with 24-year-old Craig Fletcher and he was yesterday jailed for eight years.

Fletcher of Jones Street, Newport had been part of an armed gang who carried out an aggravated burglary a flat on Church Street on October 11 last year.

While on bail for this offence Fletcher attacked and robbed a man at the Premier Stores on Baneswell Road in Newport before going on the run.

At one point he was on a list of Gwent’s ‘most wanted’, sending messages through friends when officers knocked on doors looking for him.

One message said: “I’m so close and yet so far. You’ll never catch me. I’m always watching you.”

DC Simon Thomas, who helped bring Fletcher in, told the Argus he was caught for the original burglary in October after he dropped his keys at the scene of the crime.

DC Thomas said the victim reported hearing someone shout “Open up, armed police.” Five or six men wearing stockings over their faces then forced the front door to the block of flats of Church Street, ran upstairs and threatened the victim with a Taser and a plank of wood, said DC Thomas.

The men fled with an XBox and a television, but a set of keys was found at the scene with a Swalec electricity key fob attached, registered to Fletcher.

He was arrested but denied involvement, and said he had been out drinking and lost his keys.

Fletcher was remanded in custody, then released on bail.

DC Thomas said Fletcher was at Premier Stores, on Baneswell Road, Newport on April 1 when he ripped £50 to £60 out of a man’s hand.

DC Thomas said the man asked for it back, which Fletcher did, before punching him in the face.

The victim’s feet left the ground and he fell into the gutter unconscious.

DC Thomas then described Fletcher lining up the victim’s head ‘like a rugby ball’ and kicked and stamped around ten times, before taking the cash and running away.

Fletcher was identified on CCTV by police but evaded capture sending the taunting messages.

He was caught in Allt-yr-yn and admitted robbery, but still denied aggravated burglary. He stood trial and was found guilty by jury.

Appearing at Newport Crown Court on Thursday, Judge David Wynn Morgan sentenced Fletcher to 42 months in custody for aggravated burglary, and 54 months for robbery, to run consecutively.

He will serve at least half his sentence before being released on licence.

Judge Morgan gave credit for Fletcher’s early guilty plea in respect of the robbery, as well as his young age and the fact he had written to apologise to the victim through the CPS.

The Argus approached Harding Evans Solicitors, representing Fletcher, but they did not wish to make any additional comment.