Belfast Telegraph

At large: Killer Samuel McKinley on run from Maghaberry Prison

By Chris Kilpatrick

A convicted murderer who has failed to return to prison has gone on the run twice before, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Samuel McKinley is serving a life sentence for stabbing his friend to death during a drinking session.

The 53-year-old was due to return to Maghaberry Prison last Monday after a pre-release work scheme.

But he remains at large - with his whereabouts unknown to the authorities.

This newspaper can reveal it is the third time McKinley has fled from prison having been granted temporary release.

Last night urgent answers were being demanded of the prison authorities and probation services as to why he was let out, given his history for absconding.

It is the second time in recent weeks a murderer has gone on the run from the Co Antrim prison.

"Serious questions need to be asked here, not only of probation and prison services but also the Minister for Justice," Policing Board member and DUP MLA Jonathan Craig said.

"Why is he presiding over an outside body which has for the third time let out an individual who has failed to return?

"Obviously scrutiny of past behaviour of these individuals is not fully being taken onboard.

"This is putting the public at risk and there are serious questions to be answered.

"It is absolutely bewildering this mistake should be made for a third time and it is something no members of the public will have either sympathy for or understanding of."

A life sentence and minimum 10-year tariff was imposed on McKinley in 1996 for stabbing his friend.

In 2012, McKinley was jailed for a total of two-and-a-half years for being unlawfully at large and breaching a suspended sentence.

McKinley went on the run for 17 days from April 20 that year, having been granted an unaccompanied day release from jail.

Arrested on May 7, 2012, McKinley, who was transferred to Maghaberry in 2005, behaved aggressively towards the officers and he later pleaded guilty to offences of being unlawfully at large and resisting police.

It was the second time that McKinley had breached temporary release conditions, having been handed a suspended sentence in 2009 for a similar offence when he went on the run for a total of four days.

During a court hearing in 2012, solicitor advocate Gerard McNamara said that despite McKinley being assessed as dangerous and at a high risk of reoffending, he had achieved "enhanced prisoner status" in jail and was engaging in various probation-run courses.

In November another killer, William Sloan, went on the run for almost a month.

The 51-year-old, jailed for his role in a brutal hammer attack on a man in 1989, failed to return to custody by Friday, November 21.

He remained at large until he handed himself into police in Manchester on Saturday, December 15. Jimmy Hamilton (39) died after being beaten by Sloan in his Harrow Street home, just off the Shankill Road.

DUP peer Lord Morrow hit out after being told by Justice Minister David Ford that releasing details about Sloan, including the terms of his temporary release, whether he had similar releases in the past and, if so, whether any breaches had taken place, would breach data protection legislation.

The senior unionist politician said the public's right to know outweighed the rights of Sloan.

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