FROM posh frock shop Annabelinda, former Oxford University student Howard Marks laid the foundations of an empire that was to make him the world's most wanted drugs smuggler.

Now Marks, 48, plans to visit the Apollo Theatre to reveal how he launched his criminal career from the Gloucester Green shop nearby.

The master of disguise, who had 43 aliases, began a 25-year jail sentence in America in 1990 but six years later he was freed on parole and began to write his autobiography Mr Nice.

It became a best-seller and the former Balliol College student has now taken his story to theatreland.

Two nights at the 1,200-seater Shepherds Bush Empire have sold out and following four extra dates at the venue he plans to tour the country. His promoters Avalon have promised that one of the first stops will be Oxford, so he can re-live his formative years.

Spokesman Rob Aslett said: "We think his story would have a special significance for an audience in the city."

Sam Shrouder, a spokesman for Apollo Theatres, said he would be interested to see if Mr Marks could fill the 1,286-seater venue in George Street.

He said: "We have had sportsmen doing talk shows before but this would be completely different."

It was as a physics student at Balliol in the early 1960s that Marks first dabbled with drugs and in his third year his Paradise Square lodgings were raided by police. No charges were brought.

After graduating he helped launch the Annabelinda chain of clothes shops. He no longer has any links with the business and a spokesman said: "I don't think we'll be going along to see him. We're not terribly interested."

To provide himself with a respectable front for his new-found affluence derived from the drugs trade, he "adopted" Belinda O'Hanlon and Anna Woodhead, who were running a sewing partnership specialising in ball gowns for rich Oxford students.

He advised the two women to move from their workshop in Park End Street and set up the business in Gloucester Green.

That was the front he needed, and while the dress-making firm thrived, the two women were totally unaware of the drug-smuggling business Marks was running from an office upstairs.

Marks later planned to use the chain as a front for intelligence operations for MI6, which has since disowned him.

At one stage he was smuggling up to 50 tons of hashish into America and Europe. Using his aliases, he was able to operate 25 companies to cover his drug dealing.

In Mr Nice, Marks recalled how, by the time he had finished his physics degree, he had met two Middle Eastern businessmen who were using diplomatic bags to smuggle hashish.

The boutique Annabelinda was soon no longer big enough to hold him and he recalled: "It was odd: I had enough money to retire for the rest of my life, but I wanted more, lots more.

"My lifestyle was becoming unacceptably flash and Oxfordshire family country life lost its charm. London clubs took the place of Oxford pubs. At this point I was recruited for the British Secret Service."

When the drugs squad finally caught up with him in Holland and raided his cottage in Yarnton he had more than charm and Oxford contacts.

He had MI6 and wasted no time in claiming his smuggling was part of an undercover operation.

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