A Basingstoke man has recounted his two attempts to kill the Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar as part of a new documentary.

Dave Tomkins is one of the subjects of the film Killing Escobar, featuring the tale of attempts to kill the eponymous criminal who controlled the illegal trade of cocaine in the USA in the 1980s. The now 80-year-old was involved in two attempts to kill Escobar after being offered millions for the job.

In a trailer for Killing Escobar, he recounts the moment he was asked to assassinate the drug kingpin.

He said: “They said, David, bring me back Escobar’s head and I’ll give you £1 million for him.”

Dave has led an extraordinary life, starting off as a sailor in the Merchant Navy before being sent to prison after punching a police officer. He then became an expert in blowing open safes, including one at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, according to The Guardian.

In the 1970s, he moved from opening safes into fighting wars, becoming a mercenary alongside a number of former paratroopers in Angola.

In an interview transcribed on the National Security Archives in the USA, he recounts his travels during one of the most violent civil wars of the twentieth century, with Angola the heart of a proxy conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“I had... been an adventurous type prior to that,” he said. “I was a burglar, a professional thief, so apart from the monetary aspect, there was some need for adrenaline, if you like, and it just seemed a good idea at the time.

“I had about 56 pence to my name; I had a bunch of money waved at me, by one of the UK recruiters who I knew very well, and I said, basically, ‘Well, I'm yours for the night’”.

Dave soon found himself in Angola, where he was tasked with being the explosives lead for the mercenaries on the ground.

He said: “I asked to see the explosives store, of which I had been told prior to leaving the United Kingdom that was fully equipped with C-4 and all the possible amenities of modern warfare.

“I found several sticks of gelignite, that I immediately buried because it was leaking, some open boxes of TNT flake, and lots of Soviet mines”.

This situation broadly reflected his time in Angola as a whole, with the mercenaries being underequipped for the opposition.

“It was very difficult to understand hour by hour what one was supposed to be doing,” he said. “We lacked any of the normal military standard routines of the day, like a briefing”.

He added: “We were the most poorly equipped army that you could possibly imagine, without any real aim.”

Following the disintegration of the FNLA, Dave became involved in a variety of conflicts across the world, and in the late 1980s, was approached with an offer to kill Pablo Escobar – the most wealthy criminal in history.

“They said, David, bring me back Escobar’s head and I’ll give you £1 million for him,” he said.

His years of being a mercenary meant he was well-equipped to bring a team together for the job. His top pick was Peter McAleese, a former SAS operative, who also features in Killing Escobar.

“I knew just the person,” said Dave. “We needed a number of men, preferably special force types.”

As the documentary recounts, the team of specially-assembled men trained to assassinate Escobar, with each being paid handsomely for their work.

“I was on a thousand pounds a day,” said Dave.

After training was complete, the team waited for Escobar to return to his compound, and then got the signal.

He said: “The radio bursts into life – Pablo is there, go now!”

Unfortunately for Dave, the plan went wrong when the helicopter crashed into a mountain during cloud. The pilot died in the crash, while it took three days for Dave and Peter to escape the jungle.

The assassination was later called off, but that didn’t stop Dave attempting to buy a light attack aircraft in 1991 to try and bomb the prison where Escobar was held at the time. However, he was caught in a sting and forced to flee the country, and would later serve 33 months in prison after returning to the US in 2004.

Having returned to Basingstoke, Dave’s spirit of adventure hasn’t left him. He told The Sun: “If somebody came up with something tomorrow, like overthrowing a small country, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”

Killing Escobar is available on demand now: https://www.cosmiccatfilms.com/killing-escobar

Some of these materials are reproduced from www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive.