Another two prisoners vanish as wanted killer is re-captured

Shortly before the re-capture of an on-the-run killer, two other people disappeared from the NI custody system within 24 hours of each other.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 2:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th August 2020, 3:10 pm
Pauline Burns
Pauline Burns

Whilst wanted murderer Thomas McCabe is now in custody once again, two new names have been added to the Department of Justice’s unlawfully-at-large list in the past eight days.

They are Pauline Mary Burns, a 56-year-old who had been held in Hydebank Wood.

Under “offences,” The Department of Justice lists “common assault and theft”.

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Patrick McCarthy

She was out under Rule 27 of the Prison and Young Offenders Centre Rules (Northern Ireland) 1995, which allows for compassionate temporary release. She has been missing since August 19.

The other person to disappear was Patrick McCarthy, 40.

He had been in Magilligan and was also out under Rule 27 when he disappeared on August 20.

He has a gun tattoo on his upper left arm, and under “offences” the department lists burglary, assault, dangerous driving, and more.

Police on both sides of the Irish border have refused to divulge any information about how, where, or why Thomas McCabe came to be re-captured.

They announced he was detained this morning.

McCabe, who had been serving a life sentence in Maghaberry, vanished in January 2018.

He had been released on licence at the time of his disappearance.

His detention happened somewhere in the Irish Republic, but neither Gardai nor the PSNI would disclose any details about the operation which caught him.

His capture came just over a week after the News Letter reported that a blunder by a Department of Justice official had resulted in McCabe being accidentally removed from the public ‘wanted persons’ list.

All the PSNI would say in relation to McCabe, 56, was that they thanked members of the public who had contacted police.

Gavin Robinson, East Belfast DUP MP, said “it’s good news Mr McCabe is back in custody, back where he belongs”.

He added: “I think the publicity over the last 10 days has proven to be crucially important in returning him to custody, and as such the department and investigating authority should be much more open and transparent in seeking the assistance of the public.”

McCabe’s distinguishing features include tattoos of a tricolour, bird, skull, and a message saying ‘I love my father John McCabe’.

It is not clear if he will face charges relating to his disappearance.

McCabe was an alcoholic from Northern Ireland who had moved to England.

He pleaded guilty in 1990 to murdering an 18-year-old relative of his girlfriend in a fit of jealousy while drunk.

He has repeatedly absconded before.

He had taken part in a pre-release scheme from around the turn of the millennium onwards, and disappeared a number of times whilst on it.

In fact between 1990 and 2002 he had been unlawfully-at-large four times.


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