FUGITIVE drugs baron Roddy McLean bought a boat to flee Britain the day before he was found dead.
McLean, who was on the run from an open prison, handed over a £30,000 cash deposit on the boat.
The millionaire criminal was a keen sailor, nicknamed Popeye.
It is believed he planned to flee to either Africa, where he had connections, or northern Cyprus.
Underworld sources say he was trying to make a deal with the Arifs, a London-based Turkish Cypriot crime clan.
The Arifs smuggled M25 killer Kenneth Noye out of Britain to northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with Britain, when he was on the run from justice.
Edinburgh-born McLean had served only six years of a 21-year sentence for drugs smuggling when he went on the run from Leyhill Open Prison in Gloucestershire.
Police sources believe MI5 engineered his early move there and his escape because he had been an informant during his time as a gun-runner.
Two months after his escape, on January 14, he was found dead in a hostel in Streatham, London.
His body lay unidentified for several weeks.
The Metropolitan Police claim they could not identify McLean one of Britain’s most wanted men before then.
There will be no inquest into his death despite calls for a public inquiry.
A senior Scottish police source said yesterday: ‘The fact that McLean had bought a boat in Bristol days before he died and the failure to hold a coroner’s inquest only adds to the intrigue.
‘He had strong links to Africa where he had been a gun-runner and it’s believed he owned property in Johannesburg.’
McLean, 59, was jailed in 1997 for his part in a £10million cannabis smuggling operation, off the north coast of Scotland, in which Customs officer Alastair Soutar, 47, died.
The Met say McLean died of a heart attack.
But Avon and Somerset Police ordered a second post-mortem the day before his funeral with a specific request for toxicology tests to establish if any substances triggered the attack.
Jenny Ramsden, of the south London coroner’s service, said yesterday McLean’s criminal background did not justify an inquest. She said: ‘If the pathologist gives the cause of death as natural, the coroner has no further jurisdiction.’
She added no further information could be released about the death, unless by McLean’s family.
No one from Avon and Somerset Police was available for comment.
The SNP, along with the family of the dead Customs officer, are now demanding an inquiry into claims of a security service cover-up.
McLean’s funeral took place in secret at an Edinburgh crematorium, attended by only a handful of relatives.
Our senior police source said: ‘It beggars belief the Met did not do toxicology tests, especially after they discovered they had an escaped drugs baron on their hands.
‘This is just another twist in a case filled with dubious coincidences.’
The Met would not comment on McLean buying aArif led ruthless gang boat last night. A spokesman said: ‘All personal possessions have been returned to the family. As far as we are concerned, there are no suspicious circumstances.’
Police have also been told of a possible Cypriot link.
McLean knew members of the Arif family, led by ruthless brothers Mehmet and Dogan, through his drug smuggling operations.
And the hostel he died in was owned by another Turkish-Cypriot, millionaire Savas Stavrou. He was not paying rent and was working for Stavrou as a caretaker.
A London underworld source said: ‘McLean thought the Arifs were going to smuggle him out of the country.
‘They smuggled Kenny Noye out when he was the most wanted man in Britain and they could have done the same for McLean.’