Fugitive killer Chris Kerr did a day release runner from prison staff after pretending to have a sick stomach.
The murderer, coming to the end of a life sentence for beating Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen (15) to death in Ballymena, was eating food with two officers at the Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast last Thursday when he claimed to feel sick.
One warder took him outside while the other went to the restaurant counter to pay the bill.
Kerr, who was on temporary release and not wearing handcuffs, immediately took to his heels. He outran both prison officers who chased him around the shopping mall in front of scores of stunned onlookers.
The thug was arrested later in the day at Antrim Area Hospital having been dropped off by car. Witnesses claim he was "off his head" and after entering the reception area was arrested by police.
The sectarian killer was immediately returned to Maghaberry jail and thrown off the temporary release programme.
Lifers like Kerr, who was jailed for a minimum of 13 years for the 2005 murder of Michael 'Mickeybo' McIlveen in Ballymena, are allowed out on the prison officer accompanied scheme as they near the end of their sentences. This is to help them adapt to life on the outside when they are finally freed.
However, the sister of Michael McIlveen has questioned why Kerr was selected for the pre-release scheme, saying the decision has brought great distress to their mother Gina.
Jodie McIlveen said: "He should not have even been let out. He is a danger to the public and more so he is a danger to my family.
"This has been absolutely terrifying for me to let my children out because he could have just popped up anywhere."
Jodie explained how the incident had been traumatic for their mother. "She has been in an absolute state, really bad. It is just like day one all over for her. It is never-ending," she said.
Although Mickeybo was murdered in 2006, Kerr was not convicted until 2008, meaning he is not eligible for release until at least 2021.
A Prison Service spokesman said it is investigating the circumstances of the killer's escape.