Belfast Telegraph

Ex-cellmate's relief after on-the-run killer with a grudge Alison McDonagh is recaptured

By Jonathan Bell

The former cellmate of a convicted murderer who was on the run for the past four days has spoken of her relief that she has been caught by police, saying she feared for her life.

Alison McDonagh absconded while on release for work placement.

The 42-year-old is serving a life sentence.

Joanne Mitchell said police visited her home, initially to search the property for any sign of the prisoner, before later inform- ing her they believed McDonagh was intent on tracking her down.

They said there was a "credible" threat against her from McDonagh, but did not elaborate.

They left her with a booklet on ensuring her protection and said she'd be treated as a priority should she call police.

They also increased patrols around her home.

Ms Mitchell (43) said she and McDonagh were initially friends and would have shared cigarettes and stories in their cell.

McDonagh - as she had throughout her trial - continued to insist she was innocent of the murder.

However, relations soured between the pair and it soon escalated into threats of violence and intimidation.

"She always told me if she ever got the chance she would track me down and kill me," she said.

"I couldn't believe it when they told me she had escaped and she was after me. I've been a mess.

"My husband is battling cancer; this is stress neither he or I need."

In 2006 Alison Michelle Martin - as she was then known - was jailed for the 2004 killing of her drinking friend George McDowell.

During her three-week trial the court heard how Martin had arranged for the victim, whom she had met a week earlier, to stay at the flat of a friend in Rathcoole.

Later she ordered him to leave the flat, before stabbing him in the neck with a kitchen knife.

Throughout her three-week trial Martin maintained her innocence, saying she had been set up and that she actually felt guilty that the man had died as a result of her trying to help him find somewhere to live. A jury rejected her claims and she was handed a minimum 12-year sentence.

Last Thursday McDonagh, as she is now known, went on the run while out on work placement.

Ms Mitchell, who is a full-time carer for her husband, said she was not overly surprised to learn of McDonagh's escape.

She added: "She always said, first opportunity she got, she would run.

"I know how dangerous McDonagh can be.

"I cannot believe she escaped on Thursday and there has been nothing said about it."

Other than a notification on the Department of Justice's 'wanted persons' page last week following the escape, there has been no public appeal for information on McDonagh's whereabouts.

"The public should have been told McDonagh had escaped and they need to be told she should not be approached," she said.

The Department of Justice said once a prisoner had been reported as unlawfully at large it became a police matter.

However, police said the publicising of the information was up to the Prison Service.

Asked why there was not a Press appeal made, a Department of Justice spokesman added: "It is the Prison Service's policy to place those escaped from prison on the unlawfully-at-large web page."

The spokesman confirmed the woman had been caught and arrested by police.

A police spokeswoman added: "We can confirm that a woman unlawfully at large has been returned to prison."

Told of McDonagh's capture, her former cellmate shouted: "Yes!"

She added: "Now that is definitely a relief. We can get back to normal life.

"Over the past couple of days we have been put through the wringer. I have been on tenterhooks and my husband has been unable to sleep he has been so concerned for my health. That woman has impacted on so many people, and hopefully they will think twice before letting her out again."

Belfast Telegraph


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