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Fugitive stole crash man's identity

A British fugitive caught in Australia after 15 years on the run evaded capture for so long by stealing a brain-damaged man's identity, it has been revealed.

Convicted killer Simon Hennessey, 49, mutilated his aunt in a frenzied attack in 1978, stabbing her 70 times at her home in Plymouth.

Hennessey, then aged 14, later admitted her murder on the grounds of mental illness and was jailed for life in the same year.

But after serving 20 years he walked out of Leyhill open prison, in Gloucestershire, in December 1998 and effectively disappeared. Efforts to hunt him down are largely believed to have focused on Europe until police in Queensland, Australia, arrested him in April.

Now it has emerged Hennessey lived a double life for years, taking the identity of a man from Hastings, New Zealand. He was caught using the name Robert Eric Jeffery when first arrested at an address in Tewantin on the popular Queensland Sunshine Coast.

News that fugitive Hennessey had finally been caught in Australia broke last month after his real identity was revealed. Hennessey has been charged with fraud understood to be linked to a sophisticated credit card scam running to tens of thousands of Australian dollars.

New Zealand's Hawke's Bay Today ran the Hennessey story as its front page, with the headline: "Killer steals identity."

Inside, a strongly worded opinion piece begins: "The Department of Internal Affairs has some explaining to do." It adds: "It is not good that an English criminal can steal the identity of a brain-damaged Hastings man and for our Government to reward him with the man's New Zealand passport."

Robert Jeffery, 44, was in a head-on collision with a vehicle in 2005 and thrown from the flat-bed truck he was driving. He has been in permanent care ever since and struggles to retain information. He has never held a passport.

Hennessey remains in custody in Australia after his last appearance before Maroochydore Magistrates' Court on June 17. Avon and Somerset police have previously confirmed they have already contacted the authorities in Australia with a view to extradite Hennessey back to Britain.

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