The most wanted female criminals in Europe include a human trafficker who helped lure a young girl to England and the killer of a British businessman. Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, released the list of women fugitives as part of its new campaign "Crime has no gender."
Its website displays 21 suspects with their faces obscured by a mask that gradually falls away to reveal their identity. Eighteen are women. Among those featured is 56-year-old Hilde Van Acker, who remains on the run after being convicted of the murder of British businessman Marcus John Mitchell in Belgium in 1996.
According to The Independent, the list also includes Czech national Iveta Tancosova, 52, who is wanted over the trafficking of a young girl who was beaten, locked in a room and forced to work as a prostitute in the UK. The victim, who had been lured to England with the promise of nursing work, was later sold to Tancosova's relatives in Ireland.
Europol said the aim of the campaign was to attract as many visitors to its website as possible to increase the chance of fugitives being arrested.
An official statement by the agency said: "The female fugitives featured on Europe's Most Wanted website prove that women are equally as capable of committing serious crimes as men."
In recent decades, the number of women engaged in criminal activity has increased, although at a slower pace than men. According to the website, "the criminals of both genders in this new campaign are all wanted for grave offences like murder, drug trafficking, fraud, theft and trafficking in human beings."
The three men on the list include James Kelly, a 57-year-old Irishman who is wanted by the UK for drug trafficking. Europol alleges he was part of a group that abducted and tortured a lorry driver who was stopped by customs officials. The driver was beaten with knuckle-dusters, an iron bar and a sledgehammer, burned with a blowtorch and scalded with boiling water.