Former UVF supergrass and convicted killer Jimmy Crockard, wanted for questioning about the murder of an elderly and frail war hero in Dundonald, has had his life sentence licence revoked by Security Minister Paul Goggins.
Crockard (56), who is currently in hiding in Spain, will now be returned to jail if he ever sets foot in Northern Ireland — even if the PSNI rules him out of its inquiries into the brutal killing of 92-year-old Charlie Stead in February 2007.
In a letter sent to Crockard via his solicitor, an NIO official said his life sentence licence had been revoked after “consideration of information made available to Mr Goggins about your case suggesting that you present a risk of serious harm to the public”.
It continued: “As a consequence you are now deemed to be unlawfully at large and you will be returned to prison where you will resume the status of a life sentence prisoner.”
Police recently travelled to Spain recently in a fruitless search for Crockard, who testified against 29 loyalists charged with more than 90 UVF-linked offences in the mid-80s.
But Crockard, who was jailed in September 1983 for the murders of two Catholic men, has vehemently denied any involvement in the killing of Royal Navy veteran Mr Stead, who was beaten to death at his Canberra Park home.
The letter sent to Crockard’s solicitor said that Mr Goggins based his decision on information made available to him by the PSNI and by the police in Gloucestershire, where Crockard had been living up until two years ago.
That information related to an assault with which Crockard was never charged.
The letter also referred to the PSNI wanting to question Crockard about Mr Stead’s murder and the fact that the former UVF man had broken off contact with a probation officer in February 2007.
Crockard was freed from jail after serving only eight years of his life sentences for the murders of Carl McParland and Gabriel Wiggins more than 30 years ago, but he has been recalled to prison on four occasions after brushes with the law in England.
However, Crockard has never been convicted of any other offences. Crockard is believed to be in regular telephone contact with his lawyer about his next move.
He initially said he wouldn’t return voluntarily to Belfast to talk to detectives about Mr Stead’s murder. But he has repeatedly said he wants to clear his name.