Call for review after third killer absconds from jail this year

Samuel McKinley was arrested yesterday after absconding during an unescorted day release on Thursday
Samuel McKinley was arrested yesterday after absconding during an unescorted day release on Thursday

A call has been made for a review of decision making after a convicted murderer was at large for three days after failing to return from day release.

Samuel McKinley, 57, originally from the Shankill area of Belfast, absconded during an unescorted day release on Thursday. He was arrested in greater Belfast early yesterday morning.

Police said he is serving life for the murder of a man in Southampton in 1996.

“Since 2002, he has absconded from day release or breached his pre-release/licence conditions on a number of occasions,” police added.

The NI Prison Service said McKinley’s licence had already been revoked as recently as February and that he had been returned to custody at that time as a result.

Since then he has had four previous periods of temporary release on Parole Commission recommendations, the Prison Service said.

But UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the situation was “deeply troubling”.

“Yet again we have the ridiculous situation where a convicted murderer, held in a high-security prison, is given unescorted day release,” he said. “This is deeply troubling given that Samuel McKinley has a history of absconding while on day release.”

He added: “There must be a review of how decisions of this nature are taken.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said it “cannot hold people indefinitely” as there are no “life means life” prisoners in NI. Following Parole Commission recommendations, individuals are tested incrementally; firstly within the prison and then on a three-phase programme.

This sees prisoners subject to ongoing risk assessments, with many reintegrating into society. However, “a small number” fail and demonstrate they are not ready for release.

McKinley is the third murderer to abscond this year, the others being Christopher Kerry and Thomas McCabe.