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Mark Frost, the serial pedophile who sought to hide in Spain

Spanish law prevents further prosecution of the retired English teacher who made his home in the Mediterranean before being extradited to the UK

J. J. Gálvez
Mark Frost
Spain's Civil Guard following the arrest of Mark Frost in 2016.

Mark Frost, 76, thought he had found the perfect hideout in Santa Pola, in Spain’s Mediterranean province of Alicante. Like many other criminals, he believed that a pensioner from the UK would not attract attention in this coastal town of 36,000 inhabitants where registered foreigners, including a large number of Brits, make up 21% of the population. He imagined he would be seen as just another tourist and that he would be safe from the long arm of the law, looking to nail him for decades of child sex abuse. But in 2016, after an international police operation, the Spanish Civil Guard arrested Frost and Spain handed him over to the UK. Since then, more crimes have come to light, but according to Spanish legislation, the statute of limitations has expired for these crimes and although the law has recently been reformed to extend the time in which legal proceedings can be brought to bear, it cannot be applied retroactively.

The horrific crimes committed by the former English teacher feature elements specific to pedophilia: the abuse of authority and exploitation of vulnerable individuals, the victim’s fear of reporting the crime, and the consequent difficulty proving the abuse, not to mention impunity.

Although Frost is currently languishing in a UK prison, any prosecution for fresh crimes coming to light from his past requires authorization from Spain, where he was arrested. It is up to Spain’s central criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, to greenlight his extradition for each charge. This is what happened five years ago after his arrest in Santa Pola, when the original extradition was authorized. In 2017 he was sentenced by a British judge to 13 life sentences, and to serve a minimum of 16 years.. During his trial, Frost admitted to 45 offenses against minors over a 25-year period, but as reported by The Guardian, only 11 of his victims were identified: two British victims assaulted in Worcestershire in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the BBC, and nine Thai children attacked between 2009 and 2012. As it turned out, this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Believing that Frost’s criminal activity would be more extensive, the National Crime Agency (NCA) made a public appeal to encourage victims to come forward. The NCA was sure that many had remained silent about crimes committed against them during Frost’s years as a teacher between the 1970s and 1990s and also as a Boy Scout leader. As EL PAÍS’ own investigation into pedophilia in the Catholic Church has shown, when a case of this kind is reported, more victims are given the confidence to come forward.

On August 19, 2022, a Westminster court issued a new international arrest warrant for Frost. The court asked Spain to “extend” the statute of limitations so that Frost could face prosecution for a further 24 offenses of child rape, child abuse and child pornography. According to the UK, between 1983 and 1991, when the suspect was a teacher at George Mitchell School in Leyton in east London, he sexually abused seven other children. The crimes were committed at school, on camping trips and at Frost’s home. The boys were between nine and 16 years old.

However, in a decision dated May 24 of this year, the Audiencia Nacional declined to approve the prosecution of Frost for these crimes, concluding that the 1973 Penal Code in force when the crimes were committed gave them a statute of limitations of a maximum of 15 years in the most serious cases. The time span in which they could have been prosecuted has therefore expired, according to court’s resolution, which is supported by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In the UK, there is no such statute of limitations for these offenses.

Formerly Andrew John Tracey

Frost’s capture in 2016 brought him to justice for at least some of his crimes and addressed the pain of a number of his victims, according to investigators. These victims were not only from the United Kingdom, where he was accused of abusing his own adopted son, but also from Thailand, where police arrested him in 2013 after a boy reported sexual assault. According to Spain’s Civil Guard, Frost filmed himself while abusing children. In those images, he would record himself “making the heart symbol with his hands.” After his arrest in Thailand, Frost was released on bail and fled the country.

Subsequently, Frost sold his properties in the UK and changed his name from Andrew John Tracey to Mark Frost. He then moved to Santa Pola, aiming to go unnoticed, but his bid for anonymity was short-lived. When sentencing him in London in 2017, Judge Mark Lucraft stressed that Frost “has an ongoing obsession” with sexually abusing children and would continue to pose a “risk” to minors: “Your conduct is horrific and deeply disturbing,” Lucraft told Frost. EL PAÍS has contacted Frost’s defense, which declined to comment.

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