A notorious on-the-run prisoner who stabbed himself as he was recaptured was caught drinking a pint only yards from two shops he is suspected of holding up with a knife, police have said.
Derek Brockwell, 53, from Glasgow, was detained by specialist Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) armed response officers who used a Taser during last night’s operation outside Wetherspoon’s Bridge House bar in Belfast city centre.
The bar is on Bedford Street, just around the corner from the Dublin Road where Brockwell is suspected of committing an armed robbery and an attempted armed robbery a short time before he was apprehended.
Brockwell, who escaped from custody in the Irish Republic on Tuesday, is also wanted by police in England where he failed to return to prison in Lancashire to serve a series of life sentences having been out on day release.
He was being taken to Tallaght Hospital in south Dublin from the high security Portlaoise Prison for a medical appointment when he made his escape earlier this week.
The two prison officers accompanying him were both stabbed in the incident, with one requiring emergency surgery for a serious stomach wound.
PSNI Superintendent Paula Hilman said Brockwell had been spotted sitting alone outside the Belfast pub by officers who were carrying out follow-up enquiries in relation to the two nearby robbery incidents.
“They kept a watch on the individual until the arrival of the armed response units,” she said.
The officer said the prisoner did not attempt to flee when approached by officers and instead started knifing himself, an action that prompted the use of the Taser.
“He started to inflict injuries on himself hence the reason that officers had to make a decision to take appropriate action,” she said.
Ms Hilman said the deployment of the Taser has been referred to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in line with normal protocols.
“He is currently receiving medical treatment but we will want to be speaking to him and he has been arrested on suspicion of the robbery and an attempted robbery,” she added.
“We are also liaising with our colleagues in An Garda Siochana and in Lancashire Constabulary as he is wanted within those jurisdictions as well.”
Brockwell was handed 22 life sentences in the UK for armed robbery and had appeared as a wanted man on BBC’s Crimewatch show.
After fleeing hospital in Dublin he was picked up by an awaiting accomplice on a motorbike or in a car which sped away from the scene.
The serial criminal was two years into a seven-year sentence for armed robbery after he admitted holding up the Bank of Ireland in Blackrock, south Dublin, in October 2012.
He was also convicted of robbing a post office and a bookmakers as well as for firearms offences in the Irish capital.
Brockwell landed in Ireland after failing to return to Kirkham Prison in England, where he had been allowed out on day release for a work scheme.
He carried out armed robberies on betting shops in London’s Marylebone and Paddington areas during September and October 1999.
A full report has been ordered into the circumstances around the escape by Irish Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Ireland’s Prison Officers Association said questions must be asked about why armed gardai were not part of the escort for a “violent and hardened” prisoner.