Belfast Telegraph

Prison chiefs castigated after death driver Desmond Savage is fourth killer to go on-the-run in weeks

By Chris Kilpatrick

A so-called joyrider responsible for the deaths of three people has gone on the run from prison - the fourth killer to do so in recent weeks.

Desmond Savage, who killed three people including a young couple while driving a stolen car, has absconded from Magilligan Prison.

The recent spate of prisoners failing to return to jail has prompted calls for an urgent review of the release system.

Savage (39) has more than 100 convictions and was released on compassionate grounds, but failed to return to Magilligan Prison last Wednesday.

He is currently serving a sentence for a spate of crimes on one night in 2008 when he rammed a police car and broke into a church minister's home.

Originally from Lenadoon in west Belfast, Savage received an eight-year prison sentence in 2000 for causing three deaths by dangerous driving.

Charmaine Watson (27) and her 24-year-old husband Justin died in the head-on crash in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

Their three-year-old son was seriously injured. They were hit as they returned to Belfast after a day out at Portrush.

Brian Donnelly (20), a front-seat passenger in the stolen car, also died in the collision.

Savage is currently serving a sentence for robbery, criminal damage, burglary, assault on police and aggravated vehicle theft. He is the fourth killer to abscond while on temporary release from a Northern Ireland prison recently.

Last week prison authorities defended the schemes as integral to the rehabilitation of prisoners.

But DUP peer Lord Morrow hit back: "The statement included a throwaway line on risk assessments, but I challenge the authorities to state how comprehensive this assessment is if no alerts were raised in respect of these three murderers. It certainly does not instil public confidence if three men can obtain release and then abscond.

"We are hearing much of the prisoners' rights and protection, but what about the public?

"Where are their rights and protection? Who is warning them that a convicted murderer is to be freed with clearly minimal restrictions?

"I am not for one minute aiming my concerns or remarks at those prisoners who have been jailed for lesser offences and abide by the terms of temporary release."

Police on both sides of the border are currently liaising regarding the return of one, killer Samuel McKinley, who absconded while on release from Maghaberry Prison last month. It was the third time he had gone on the run.

McKinley was serving a life sentence for stabbing his friend to death during a drinking session.

The 53-year-old is currently in the Republic after attending hospital suffering chest pains.

Two other killers, William Sloan and Patrick Byers, also failed to return to custody in recent months before handing themselves in to the authorities.

Savage is described as having fair hair, of medium build and is 1.78m (5ft 8in) tall.

The Prison Service said anyone who sees him should contact police.

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