Police advise public not to approach suspected rapist branded 'no danger' by David Ford
‘No evidence to believe he is of particular danger to the public’ - David Ford, October 2010
‘We would advise the public not to approach him, but to call police at once’ - PSNI, April, 2011
A suspected rapist sought by police in connection with a brutal killing was described by the Justice Minister as being “no danger” to the public when he was accidentally released from prison last year.
Now police are warning the public not to approach Devidas Paliutis, who is being hunted for questioning on suspicion of being involved in a murder in Kilkeel at the weekend while he was unlawfully at large.
As Interpol officers yesterday assisted the PSNI and An Garda Siochana in the search for Paliutis, who was released “in error” by the Northern Ireland Prison Service in October while on remand on charges of rape, false imprisonment and burglary, there were warnings from police that he could be “armed and dangerous”.
Police believe that the 27-year-old Lithuanian, who has been on the run from Maghaberry Prison for eight months, may have been involved in the murder of 29-year-old Ukrainian Dmytro Grytsunov, who was shot dead outside a flat in Rooney Park, Kilkeel, on Saturday night during a row between two groups of foreign nationals.
When the alleged violent criminal was released from jail by accident last year because of an “administrative error”, the Justice Minister said: “There is no evidence to believe he is of particular danger to the public.”
Mr Ford, the PSNI and the Prison Service did not tell the public about the accidental release for two days. Mr Ford said at the time they thought there would be a chance of catching him overnight.
A few days later the authorities said there was a possibility that Paliutis had fled Northern Ireland and returned to Lithuania.
It is now suspected, however, that he has been travelling freely between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Ex-Stormont justice committee member Paul Givan said: “If this man was involved in this murder then Mr Ford has questions to answer about how he could have got it so wrong in October, when he said there was no evidence he was dangerous.”
The DUP man added: “The public are being advised not to approach this man because the police believe he poses a danger. He didn’t become dangerous overnight. Was the Justice Minister not being provided with the correct information? And what was being done to find this man over the past eight months?”
Mr Ford yesterday defended the steps taken since last year to trace Paliutis.
He said: “There was a detailed examination which followed up his previous known haunts. Those involved both Co Armagh and Co Monaghan locations. He wasn't found as a result of that. It appeared he had left Ireland completely. He may indeed have done so and returned, we simply don't know.”
Mr Ford said that nobody has been disciplined for the erroneous release of Paliutis as no one person had been found accountable. He added, however, that the issue was being taken seriously.
Police also want to speak to another man, Ernestas Rudeckis, in relation to the weekend shooting.
A police spokeswoman said: “Members of the public who believe they have seen these men or who know of their whereabouts should contact police immediately on 0845 600 8000 or via 999.”
They have urged the public not to approach the suspects.
Devidas Paliutis has been on the run for eight months after prison staff accidentally let him walk out of Maghaberry.
The Prison Service was told by Newry Magistrates Court that holding charges against him had been withdrawn, but wardens did not realise he had been returned for trial to the Crown Court on additional charges of rape, false imprisonment and burglary.
He is now wanted in connection with a murder in Kilkeel at the weekend.