Belfast Telegraph

Samurai sword killer still on the run after failing to return to Magilligan prison


Police were last night hunting a convicted murderer who failed to return to Magilligan prison on Monday.

Stephen Henry (41) was out on day release visiting family but failed to return.

In 2006, he was convicted of murdering father-of-two John Cooke (33) using a samurai sword at a house in Lisburn.

He admitted the 2004 killing and was handed a life sentence, having to serve at least 13 years before he could be considered for release.

At the time Mr Cooke's family slammed the punishment as far too lenient.

Police made a public appeal yesterday - almost 24 hours after Henry was reported missing.

Detective Sergeant McColgan said: "We believe Stephen Henry, who was jailed for murder, is dangerous and may be in either the Craigavon or Belfast area.

"He is described as being 5ft 10in in height, of medium build with short brown hair. He has tattoos on both upper arms and scars on his forehead and left ear.

"He was last seen in the Craigavon area at around 3.45pm (on Monday)."

The officer added Henry had a history of violence and urged the public not to approach him, but to contact police immediately.

He said: "I would ask Mr Henry to hand himself into the authorities without any further delay and ask anyone who knows of his current whereabouts or who has any information to contact police on 999."

Asked why the public were only informed almost 24 hours after Henry was missing, DS McColgan added: "Police were advised by HMP Magilligan at 6.20pm (Monday) that Stephen Henry was unlawfully at large.

"Since that time, police have been actively following a number of lines of inquiry.

"We deemed it appropriate to issue a public appeal yesterday afternoon." At the conclusion of the murder trial in 2006, the judge told Henry he had "behaved like a savage" who assaulted Mr Cooke as he "begged for his life".

As he was led away, it was reported that members of Mr Cooke's family shouted "murderer" at him, with one adding: "I hope you die in jail".

Speaking after the sentencing, family friend Peter McCormick told the BBC Mr Cooke had been "butchered beyond all recognition".

He said: "He (Henry) should have got a much bigger sentence - the family are not happy and they will never be happy."

The trial was told Henry had been drinking and taking drugs before the horrific attack and was caught by police shortly afterwards when he crashed a car in the Co Antrim town.

His girlfriend at the time, Margaret Lundy, had been in the vehicle and was said to be in a distressed state when she was found by officers but soon directed them towards Mr Cooke's house on Church Lane. Officers were said to have discovered Mr Cooke's body with numerous sword injuries, one of which had almost severed his left arm.

It's believed Henry had argued with Mr Cooke shortly before killing him, insisting that Miss Lundy should leave the house with him.

She told police at the time she did not see the fight start but had pleaded with him to stop before fleeing.

Henry left the house covered in blood and carrying the sword, taking his girlfriend with him.

After crashing into another vehicle he ran away but gave himself up to police the following day.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph