Belfast Telegraph

Child killer John Clifford on run from prison in Northern Ireland

By Mark Bain

A notorious Northern Ireland child killer whose victim's relatives had warned should never be allowed to walk free is unlawfully at large after failing to return to Maghaberry Prison.

John Clifford, who uses a mobility scooter to get around, had been released from Burren House on the Crumlin Road on Sunday to attend an appointment - but failed to return when expected.

The unit is a satellite of Maghaberry Prison and houses up to 22 prisoners reaching the end of long jail sentences.

Clifford raped and strangled his eight-year-old niece Sue Ellen Clifford, before leaving her on a deserted railway line in 1988.

The 56-year-old had been freed in 2005 but was back behind bars in 2007 for breaching the terms of his probation.

Clifford had been baby-sitting Sue Ellen in her home on the Rathcoole estate in north Belfast on the night of her murder.

After getting drunk he took the child from her bedroom and forced her to walk with him along the Belfast to Carrickfergus railway line.

Sue Ellen asked her uncle to carry her because she was feeling tired.

Clifford did as she asked, but when he realised she was not wearing any underwear he sexually assaulted her.

When Sue Ellen began to scream he strangled her with a strap and then dumped her body.

He initially denied the murder but broke after three days of questioning and confessed.

Less than two years later, Sue Ellen's devastated mum Martha Adair took her own life. The heartbroken parent could not face life without her daughter.

Clifford's list of offences also includes indecent assaults and cruelty to children.

Members of Sue Ellen's family have previously spoken of their fear that if Clifford was ever released he would kill another child.

In 2010, Sue Ellen's sister Deborah Adair warned that if Clifford was released he could murder another child.

"Mark my words, he will rape or murder another child. John Clifford is pure evil," she said.

"That man destroyed my family - he didn't only murder my sister Sue Ellen, he was responsible for the suicide of my mummy."

Following Clifford's failure to reappear after his release on Sunday, Inspector Paul Noble said: "We have initiated enquiries to locate John Clifford.

"He is described as being 1.75m tall with green eyes and fair hair. He is of medium build with a fresh complexion.

"When last seen he was wearing a black beanie style hat, heavy black coat, grey trousers and black dress shoes.

"He was last seen using a distinctive three-wheel mobility scooter bearing the registration plate EXZ 4974.

"Members of the public or anyone with information about his whereabouts should contact us immediately on 101."

The Northern Ireland Prison Service said it is investigating "the circumstances surrounding the abscondment of John Clifford".

It added: "At this time we are focused on returning him to custody and we would ask anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately."

Belfast Telegraph

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