A high-risk sex offender who has vanished from a supervision programme has gone missing before, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Police say Ernest George Finlay (53), from Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone, poses a serious risk and have warned the public not to approach him.
Finlay, who has convictions for rape and indecent assault on a child, is a category three offender and in the highest risk bracket.
It is understood that Finlay was jailed for 14 years in 1997 for a series of brutal rapes on prostitutes in Belfast. He also has convictions for assault with intent to rape.
He pleaded guilty in February 1997 to four charges of rape and one charge of unlawful imprisonment.
At the time of the offences he drove more than 40 miles from his home to carry out attacks on prostitutes. He was caught after a woman reported the attacks to police and a special squad of detectives were drafted in to hunt him down.
They caught him after a car he was using was captured on security cameras in the city and DNA samples were taken.
With 50% remission, Finlay served just seven years of his 14-year sentence. While living in the community the risk he posed was being managed under Public Protection Arrangements.
He went missing at the weekend after failing to comply with his post-custody release conditions, having been released from prison in April for a similar offence, when he fled to the Republic without notifying police.
One source said yesterday: “There had been restrictions which prevented him leaving the South Tyrone area without the consent of the Police Commander.
“He was apprehended in the South and, because he was in breach of his conditions, he was stopped by gardai and when he returned to Northern Ireland he was arrested and prosecuted.
“Having served that sentence he was released back in April and those conditions continued to be in place. Now he's gone again.”
Finlay is 5ft 8ins, of medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair.
He has a small gap between his upper two front teeth and has several tattoos, three of which are on his arms, among them a picture of a horse's head.
Members of the public have been urged by officers not to approach him but instead to contact the police immediately.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Following the decision by the PSNI to issue a Public Disclosure Notice, police continue to ask for the assistance of the public in identifying the whereabouts of Ernest George Finlay, a convicted sex offender who has failed to comply with his post-custody conditions and is considered to pose a risk of causing serious harm.
“Finlay had recently been living in the Dungannon area of County Tyrone and was last seen on Saturday morning.”
She added: “The public are requested not to approach this person but are asked to contact police if they think they may know of his whereabouts. Police are also appealing to Mr Finlay to hand himself in at the nearest police station.”
Last night Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Maurice Morrow said he was deeply concerned by Finlay's escape and called for the PSNI to provide the public with further details.
“It is imperative that this man is apprehended at the very earliest opportunity,” he said.