LAW-ENFORCERS have launched a hunt for a wanted Bury-based drugs gang boss suspected to be on the run on a holiday isle.

A European arrest warrant has been issued to track down Nicholas Knowles who headed up the ‘Tommy gang’, a heroin and cocaine dealing racket.

Knowles is suspected to have fled the country after being sentenced to 13-and-a-half years behind bars at a court hearing, held in his absence in 2018.

Magistrates this week granted the warrant to find and arrest the 27-year-old dad, who is thought to be living on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

The warrant concerns three charges ­— two of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and a third for fraud by dishonest representation.

It allows judicial authorities in a European country to arrest a person in another and surrender them for prosecution, or to execute a custodial sentence or detention order.

The hunt comes after Knowles was unanimously found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine by a jury at Bolton Crown Court in March, 2018.

For a large part of an earlier four-week trial Knowles was absent from court, claiming illness

And he did not attend a sentencing hearing two days after he was convicted.

During the trial the court heard that Knowles and his gang made thousands of deals, selling heroin and cocaine to drug addicts across Bury, Bolton and Salford, over an 18-month period.

Their activities were shut down in 2015 by police operating as part of Operation Rhodonite.

Officers had managed to trace Knowles through a series of incriminating mobile phone numbers ­— known as ‘Tommy shot lines’ ­— which were used to communicate with customers.

At the time Knowles, later of Ambleside Avenue, Ashton-under-Lyne, was the tenant of a terraced house in Merton Street, Bury.

He managed to escape from officers who stopped a Mitsubishi Evolution he had been driving in Coronation Road, Radcliffe, in February 2014.

A few months later, however, Knowles was recalled to prison, following an alleged assault on his girlfriend Gabrielle Price.

While in jail he continued to run his drugs empire using his cellmate’s prison phone account to keep in touch with his second in command.

Knowles was released after five weeks in prison. Then, in May 2015, police moved in and smashed the drug dealing operation, arresting Knowles and other gang members.

After trial he was sentenced to 13 years for the drugs offences, as well as an additional six months for providing false information while applying for £25,000 in credit to enable him to buy a new car.

However, he did not serve any of his sentence as he managed to abscond from the authorities, prompting a now international search.

Fellow gang members pleaded guilty to their roles and were sentenced at Bolton Crown Court in December 2016 and January 2017.

Nathan Dagnall, then aged 21, of Garstang Avenue, Breightmet, was jailed for 36 months for two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.

Cameron Johnson, then of Church Lane, Sale, received a custodial sentence of 40 months also for two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.

Noel Cowan, then aged 41, of Harwood Road, Tottington, was given two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, for conspiracy to supply cocaine.