Belfast Telegraph

Jail term extended for killer John Clifford who went on run

Prisoner: John Clifford
Prisoner: John Clifford

By Michael Donnelly

A convicted child killer who went on the run in the Republic of Ireland last September has been sentenced to six months.

Belfast Crown Court Judge David McFarland told John Clifford (57) his sentence would run consecutively to his current one, as to do otherwise "there would be no real punishment".

He added that prisoners who abscond "must realise they run a real risk" of further jail time.

The judge said while the degree of planning involved was "spontaneous", and the period at large was a week, it was still a serious offence given the concerns and tensions it could raise not only to the family of his victim, but also the community.

It could also impact, added Judge McFarland, on other prisoners seeking to attend medical or other appointments, because of an overzealous approach being taken by the prison authorities, for which they could not be criticised, on granting release for such appointments.

Clifford was jailed in January 1989 for the rape and murder of his niece Sue Ellen (8) a year earlier. Prosecution lawyer Simon Jenkins said Clifford was released from Burren House on the Crumlin Road on September 2 last year for an appointment which he never kept.

Instead, he was captured on CCTV boarding a train to Dublin and police were alerted. However, within the following week he contacted the Garda in Wicklow and voluntarily agreed to return to Northern Ireland, where he was arrested in Newry by PSNI.

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