Belfast Telegraph

How did Michael McIlveen killer give guards the slip during Belfast trip?

Answers demanded after murderer flees from escort in Belfast city centre

By Mark Edwards

The Northern Ireland Prison Service has been criticised after a convicted murderer escaped from Maghaberry Prison while on accompanied release in Belfast city centre.

Christopher Francis Kerr (32), from Ballymena, escaped from custody yesterday afternoon. He was later arrested in the Antrim area.

It’s believed he was in Victoria Square shopping complex as part of his phased released when he gave guards the slip.

Kerr is serving a life sentence for the murder of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in 2006.

Michael was killed in a sectarian attack after being chased by a gang and struck with a baseball bat in an alleyway in Ballymena town centre. The boy, known as ‘Mickey Bo’ to friends and family, later died from brain injuries.

Kerr was jailed in 2013 and it is understood he was not due to be considered for release from Maghaberry until at least 2021.

The Prison Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding Kerr’s abscondment.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie MLA said: “This isn’t the first time people who are serving sentences for serious crimes have been given the ability to abscond and go into our community and here we have a convicted murderer, a seriously dangerous man, was free to roam in our society because the Prison Service has got it wrong yet again.

“I have called time and time again for the rules to be tightened for prisoners like this so that they do not have the opportunity to be able to abscond.”

Police confirmed Kerr had been apprehended just after 9pm last night.

SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said the murder of the teenager was still fresh in the memory of people in Ballymena.

“That murder of Michael McIlveen was a major issue, not just in Ballymena, but nationally and internationally. It was a very big thing at the time,” he said.

“The sectarian murder was a very harrowing incident for everyone in the Ballymena, particularly for his family. There will have been much concern that a person convicted of that murder was able to escape.

“Obviously you have got to be concerned that this man was out in the community for a period of time.”

Kerr and Aaron Wallace, from Moat Road, who was also convicted of the murder, last year attempted to have their convictions quashed. Lawyers argued that a revised law on joint enterprise cases rendered their convictions unsafe.

But the Court of Appeal ruled both defendants were part of a gang of youths who chased the victim knowing another in their group was armed with a baseball bat which could have caused grave harm.

Belfast Telegraph

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