Belfast Telegraph

Video: Police arrest McIlveen killer - family's horror at learning of escape

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The sister of a murdered Ballymena schoolboy has described the horror of learning her brother's killer had escaped after being allowed out of prison.

Jodie McIlveen questioned why Christopher Francis Kerr had been allowed on an accompanied release, and described the distress the escape had caused their mother Gina.

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Michael McIlveen's sister Jodie pictured outside court in 2009

Kerr (32), from Ballymena, escaped custody on Thursday afternoon before later being 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.

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Victim Michael ‘Mickeybo’ McIlveen

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

"He should not have even been let out, he is as danger to the public and more so he is a danger to my family," sister Jodie told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Yesterday was absolutely terrifying for me to let my children out because he could have just popped up anywhere."

The 28-year-old said the incident had been traumatic for their mother.

"She has been in an absolute state, really bad," she said.

"It is just like day one all over for her. It is never ending.

"And to be told this, she was absolutely petrified. She couldn’t sleep in her own house last night. It is worse when you have to get cameras put up around your own home, because that’s what you’re living in. It’s fear."

Jodie McIlveen said her family had been informed by the prison service ahead of time Kerr was on the scheme for accompanied release, but was not given specific information about when he might be released.

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Killer Kerr

"With the Prison Service I feel like we have been let down," she said.

"I just cannot understand or get my head around how he was let loose by a prison guard. I just cannot understand it."

After news of Kerr's escape emerged on Thursday, Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the Prison Service had "got it wrong yet again" by allowing him to abscond, and his party had called for rules around day release to be tightened on a number of occasions.

Jodie said she supported action being taken to reform the system for accompanied release for prisoners.

"I just think that what they are getting is very low, it is very minimum," she said.

"They don’t deserve it. They do not deserve day release at all. I don’t care how long they have been in prison. It is like a walk in the park for them."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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