A FUGITIVE people-smuggler hiding an Iraqi family in a camper van sprinkled chilli powder around the vehicle in an effort to evade sniffer dogs.

Patricia Ferreira, of no fixed address, was extradited from Germany by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation on August 7 following her arrest there on June 19 under a European Arrest Warrant.

She had previously admitted the people smuggling charge, but failed to appear at court for sentencing in November 2017 and went on the run.

The charges relate to an incident in February 2016 where Ferreira and co-conspirator Skelly Monpierre attempted to smuggle an Iraqi family through Harwich Port in a hired campervan.

The family were hiding inside a locked rear luggage compartment and chilli powder had been sprinkled around the vehicle in an effort to put off sniffer dogs.

The pair were stopped by Border Force officers after they disembarked a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

After the smuggling attempt was discovered, Monpierre and Ferreira were arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration and the investigation passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation officers.

Text messages found on Ferreira’s phone suggested arrangements for the pick-up and payments for the crime had been made in advance of the trip.

Stuart Cooper from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said:“Ferreira may have thought she could avoid her sentence, but as this case demonstrates we never stop looking.

"My officers are determined investigators and our work with international partners means we have a very long reach when it comes to those who try to evade justice.

“The people smuggling offence in this case was driven by profit and, as demonstrated by attempts to prevent sniffer dogs from finding the family, was planned and premeditated.

“There is no excuse for those who are prepared to abuse our immigration laws and this case should serve as a warning that we will catch you and make sure you face justice.”

Following her extradition Ferreira was sentenced to two and a half years in jail at Chelmsford Crown Court today.

Monpierre, of Coleridge Gardens, Lincoln, was jailed for three years last November after he was found guilty following a four day trial.