Life prisoner gets extra year for four days on the run

The Ulster Hospital
The Ulster Hospital

A convicted murderer who went on the run after escaping from prison guards at the Ulster Hospital has had an additional year added on to his life sentence.

Thomas Martin Valliday – who is serving a life sentence with a minimum of 17 years for the March 2008 murder of former IRA man Frank ‘Bap’ McGreevy – appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court on two charges arising from his escape last May.

The 28-year-old, who is originally from west Belfast, admitted a charge of escaping from lawful custody after conviction on May 1, 2015 and also possessing Class C tablets, namely Diazepam, on May 5, 2015.

During the hearing, it emerged that after he handed himself in and was sent back to Maghaberry, Valliday was punished by spending seven days in solitary confinement in ‘the block’, and also had privileges removed for 42 days.

It also emerged that Valliday – who was convicted by a jury in February 2010 of the murder of 51-year old west Belfast father-of-two Mr McGreevy – was handed a life sentence with the earliest possible release date set as 2025.

A Crown prosecutor told Judge Piers Grant that Valliday was brought to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald on May 1 last year for minor surgery on his hand.

During the hospital visit Valliday was accompanied by prison staff. At around 3pm, as he was waiting to be discharged, he went into a toilet cubicle attached to his room. He was able to slip off his handcuffs before running out of the cubicle and fleeing the two prison guards.

Despite the prison guards giving chase, Valliday was able to make his escape. He was at large for several days before handing himself in at Musgrave Street PSNI station. He was also found to be in possession of 219 Class C Diazepam tablets.

Valliday later made the case that all the tablets were for his personal use.

The prosecutor said that when Valliday was interviewed about his escape and his whereabouts for four days while at large, he gave no explanation other than to say he had been in Belfast.

His defence barrister said that during his period at large, Valliday was with friends and family – but pointed out that he returned himself to custody.

Saying his actions last May will impact any early release, the barrister said: “There will be no chance a Paroles Commission is going to turn a blind eye to a man convicted of murder escaping from custody.”

The defence barrister also said that during the escape there was “no violence ... he simply fled, but then had the sense to return himself”.

Handing Valliday a 12-month sentence that will run consecutively to the life sentence he is already serving, Judge Grant said he needed to be punished for the “serious offences”.