Belfast Telegraph

Murderer William Sloan on the loose, but why wasn't the public told?

By Chris Kilpatrick

Police and the prison authorities have been strongly criticised for not warning the public sooner that a convicted murderer was on the loose.

William Sloan, who is originally from Dundonald, was given temporary release from Maghaberry Prison last week.

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

Jimmy Hamilton (39) died after being beaten in his Harrow Street home, just off the Shankill Road.

His attackers then ransacked the victim's house.

The Prison Service put details and a picture of Sloan on its website on Tuesday.

But a Policing Board member and senior politician last night said the public should have been told Sloan was at large much earlier.

"Given the nature of the violence this man has a history of and the fact he's a repeat offender, it is very troubling that people weren't warned he is missing," said SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly.

"It would be useful for police or the prison authorities to remind us just what are the pressure points at which the public have a right to know.

"You'd have thought in respect to this man it would have been immediately. I will be raising this with the Policing Board next week."

Sloan was 33 at the time of the murder. He was released on licence in 1999. His licence was suspended by the Northern Ireland Office in May 2006 and later revoked by the sentence review commissioners in December that year. The action was taken after Sloan committed attempted arson, criminal damage and breached a non-molestation order.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "The Northern Ireland Prison Service can confirm that Mr Sloan failed to return from home leave on November 21.

"We are currently working with our colleagues in the PSNI to locate the prisoner and return him to custody. Anyone with any information should contact the PSNI or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

A police spokeswoman said investigators were working with the Prison Service to find Sloan.

A co-accused of Sloan previously said of the fatal attack on Mr Hamilton: "This fella knocked Jimmy to the ground and started kicking him. I heard Jimmy shouting but I don't know what.

"This fella just went crazy and the other fella helped this madman carry out some of Jimmy's gear, I think a TV and stacking hi-fi.

"Before we left I remember Jimmy lying in the corner groaning in pain. After we left the house my mates left me off and I went home.

"I was only going to give Jimmy a 'digging', I didn't think it would have gone as far as it did.

"This is all I can say; I don't want to name the fellas with me."

Sloan has been involved in criminality including assault and disorderly behaviour from the age of 13. Before his conviction for murder he had two convictions for violence and four convictions for burglary.

Sloan is described as around 5ft 9ins in height, of medium build with brown eyes and grey hair. He has a number of tattoos on his arms and hands.

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