Northern Ireland

NI newspapers: Prisoner escapes and Black accused walks free

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

The escape and subsequent re-arrest of a murderer while on temporary release from Maghaberry Prison dominates the front pages of Friday's papers.

Christopher Kerr, 32, was convicted of the murder of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in Ballymena in 2006.

"On-the-run killer nabbed" is the headline in the Daily Mirror. The News Letter reads: "Another murderer goes on the run in NI", while the Belfast Telegraph asks: "How did McIlveen killer give guards the slip?"

The Telegraph quotes MLA Doug Beattie, who criticises the Northern Ireland Prison Service, saying "rules need to be tightened".

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police had described Christopher Kerr as dangerous

The former soldier and Ulster Unionist politician told the paper: "This isn't the first time people who are serving sentences for serious crimes have been given the ability to abscond and go into our community and here we have a convicted murderer, a seriously dangerous man, who is now free to roam in our society because the prison service have got it wrong yet again."

The Belfast Telegraph also carries a moving photo of the devastated widow and children of murdered prison officer David Black leaving Belfast Crown Court after a man facing charges linked to the killing walked free on Thursday.

The prison officer was shot and killed on the M1 as he drove to work in November 2012.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The Black family was in court to hear the case

Mr Black's son Kyle told the Telegraph his family is "absolutely devastated" over the collapse of Thursday's trial, after which the accused, Damien McLaughlin walked free.

"Life has revolved around the trial, going from one court hearing to the next, and now that's all finished," he said.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Damien McLaughlin, who was on trial for aiding and abetting the murder of Mr Black, walked free on Thursday

The News Letter also leads with the trial collapse, however elsewhere on its front page, it continues its coverage of the Renewable Heating Scheme Inquiry.

"DUP put breaks on RHI cost controls wilfully" reads the headline.

It quotes senior civil servant John Mills, who said that when the scheme was running wildly out of control, the DUP "acted in a highly unusual way which deliberately delayed the introduction of controls to reign in the cost".

Image caption John Mills was at the meeting where it was decided to push back introducing subsidy cuts

Mr Mills, who was the director of the energy division within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), said that as officials pressed minister Jonathan Bell for an urgent decision to curb spending, there was "delay after delay from the DUP".

On a brighter note, the paper reports that a tiny Caribbean nation has become only the fourth state to set up a consulate in Northern Ireland.

St Vincent and the Grenadines - which is located in the West Indies - joins the USA, China and Poland in having a full diplomatic presence here.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption St Vincent and the Grenadines joins the USA, China and Poland in having a full diplomatic presence in Northern Ireland

Consul General Dr Christopher Stanage was born in Canada but grew up as a Vincentian. He is quoted as saying he will represent all Caribbean nationals living in Northern Ireland: "We don't know the pure numbers, but there would be about 1,200 to 1,500 people of Caribbean descent in NI.

"The representation here is to have people on the ground who can look at forging new international links."

Finally, The Irish News leads with the story of an ex-jockey from west Belfast who collapsed and died in a lift at the Royal Victoria Hospital minutes after being discharged.

'Heartbroken'

It says the family of Hugh Hagan are demanding answers from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust after the 58-year-old was discharged on Sunday after becoming ill at the dentist the previous week.

The newspaper quotes Mr Hagan's niece Sinead Robinson, who said: "We won't rest until we get an explanation. We are heartbroken."

A spokesperson for the trust said they are working with the coroner to establish what happened.