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Three cold-blooded killers sniff freedom at Belfast open prison

Thug who kicked man to death and brute who urinated on dying victim now on easy street

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Killer Richard Close on the streets of Belfast.  Credit: Colm O'Reilly/Sunday Life

Killer Richard Close on the streets of Belfast. Credit: Colm O'Reilly/Sunday Life

Davy Cummings (Right)

Davy Cummings (Right)

Killer Richard Close on the streets of Belfast. Credit: Colm O'Reilly/Sunday Life

Three notorious killers caged for life for the murders of three extremely vulnerable people are being lined up for release back into the community.

Ricky Close, William Craven (both 47) and 28-year-old Adrian Cunningham have all been moved to a specialist unit ahead of being transferred to Belfast's cushy Burren House open prison.

Their new home and final step on the path to freedom is the Braid House annex at the high-security Maghaberry jail.

After a stint in the complex, which is much more relaxed than regular prison, they will be relocated to Burren House, where inmates are not locked in their cells and are allowed out during the day, and occasionally overnight, to attend work placements and visit family members.

Security sources have expressed concerns about the suitability of Close, Cunningham and Craven's releases, telling Sunday Life there are major question marks about the behaviour of each.

One insider said: "All three would be considered high-risk given their murder convictions, especially Close, who was thrown off previous pre-release schemes over concerns he was taking drugs and was in possession of pornography."

When he murdered retired teacher Daphne Taylor in 1995, ex-French Foreign Legionnaire Close was on bail for a rape for which he was later convicted.

Adrian Cunningham is coming to the end of a life sentence with a minimum 11-year tariff for kicking homeless alcoholic Marek Muszynski to death in Newry. Cunningham and fellow killer Lindsay White rifled through their Polish victim's pockets, stealing 70p which they used to buy takeaway food.

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Adrian Cunningham

Adrian Cunningham

Adrian Cunningham

The third lifer preparing for release is Portadown man William Craven, who fatally stabbed 71-year-old pensioner Billy Armstrong in 2002.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "People in our care approaching the end of their sentence are often tested prior to release back into the community.

"After being fully risk-assessed, they begin a graduated release programme.

"Testing by its nature has some failures and it is better that this is done in a controlled way with robust checks by the Prison Service."

But that has did little to reassure jail staff that moving Close, Cunningham and Craven is a good idea.

They told Sunday Life how Stephen Lee Wright, another murderer held in the open prison, was recently returned to Maghaberry Prison for rule-breaking.

The 43-year-old was jailed for life in 2005 for the murder of helpless alcoholic Noel McComb, who was kicked, battered with a vodka bottle and urinated on as he lay dying. Wright then tried to burn down the south Belfast flat where the attack occurred to cover his tracks.

Our source said: "Wright is back in. He was suspected of taking drugs, which is no surprise because Burren House is awash with them. It doesn't help that Davy Cummings and John Smith, who at one time were the biggest drug dealers in Maghaberry, are currently on pre-release there."

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Davy Cummings (Right)

Davy Cummings (Right)

Davy Cummings (Right)

Body-builder Cummings (40) is coming to the end of a life sentence for the 2000 murder of innocent Guy Harper outside a Portrush nightclub.

His pal Smith (42) murdered teenager Leslie Davidson in 1999. After stabbing him to death, he shouted at witnesses: "F*** the Shankill Butchers. Up the Antrim Butchers. No names to the peelers."

Both Cummings and Smith have been kicked off previous pre-release schemes on multiple occasions.

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