He was a master at bluffing his way through police checks and airport terminals, deploying an array of fake passports and different guises.

For almost two years Charlie Riddington eluded the Metropolitan police and a European arrest warrant issued for his suspected role in the murder of a fellow Briton, George Barker, in London in 2016. But this week the 36-year-old learned that his luck was finally up.

After being on the run, crisscrossing Europe using any one of his 14 false identities, Riddington was told by a district court judge in Cyprus’s capital, Nicosia, that he would be extradited back to the UK.

“We have no grounds to appeal. He will be extradited to Britain where the judicial system is known to be fair,” his lawyer, Giorgos Giorgalis, told the Guardian. “He has been charged with murder. If he is innocent he will be found innocent. If he is guilty, he will be found guilty. It is only right that the extradition request is upheld.”

Seized in northern Cyprus in August, Riddington’s arrest was seen as a significant victory for the British authorities. In January the Met offered a £10,000 reward for information that might lead to his capture. As calls for justice mounted, Crimestoppers also issued an appeal and his image was splashed on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow daytime TV programme.

Although Riddington was singled out as the main assailant, police said he escaped arrest by flying from Manchester to the German city of Düsseldorf using the alias Barry Ryan.

From there he is believed to have ended up in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, whose pariah status has made it a favourite bolthole for British criminals on the run. Recognised by no other country but Turkey, the breakaway republic is the only place in Europe not to enjoy an extradition treaty with the UK.

In the 37 years since it unilaterally declared independence, following the island’s division after the 1974 Turkish invasion, both Interpol and Europol have been unable to operate in the territory. The murky status has allowed some of the world’s most high-profile criminals, gangsters and conmen to live there with impunity.

Riddington was arrested as he re-entered the tiny state from Germany under a new policy by Turkish Cypriot authorities to step up cooperation with the UK on matters of crime.

“He was travelling back from Germany on a Namibian passport under the name Ricky de Bruin, one of his many false identities,” a local police official said. “Our belief is that he had been in and out of the island several times. He was almost unrecognisable, with long shaggy hair, and was much plumper than [depicted] in the past.”

Two weeks ago Turkish Cypriot police handed him to authorities in the island’s internationally recognised Greek-run south, where he was detained in Nicosia’s prison, just metres away from the complex housing the British high commission.

Described as a brilliant conman, the Briton was found in possession of 14 fake passports when police finally caught up with him. A large stash of money was subsequently discovered in the villa outside the port city of Kyrenia where he had lived for most of the past two years. He will be extradited to the UK within 10 days.

Asked about his client’s psychological state now that he knew he would be returning to Britain, his lawyer said: “He is in fine spirits, drinking his coffees, smoking his cigarettes, using his mobile phone even if he knows very well his fate lies in the hands of British justice.”

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