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Cousin says absconded murderer walked due to probation delays
The cousin of a murderer on the run said he had threatened to walk out of prison after delays in his release.
Police are searching for Derek Passmore, who was serving a life sentence after he killed a man in Hampton in October 1996.
The 48-year-old, formerly of Robin Hood Lane, Kingston, left Ford Prison in Sussex on day release on Saturday, June 22, and has not been seen since.
Passmore’s cousin, John Burgess, said he last saw him about 10 weeks ago and that he was frustrated with the lack of progress in the parole process.
Mr Burgess said: “He was always complaining about the probation service and was due for a parole hearing. They weren’t listening.
“I am 100 per cent he told me that if it doesn’t change he would go.”
Mr Burgess said for the past two years Passmore had been allowed out of the category D open prison for eight days a month and said he thought he had completed his sentence.
He said: “To get out every time you have to go before a committee.
“These people have so much influence over your life as a prisoner if they take a dislike to you, that’s it.
“He was getting to be a bit of an embarrassment for them because you are meant to be in open prison for two years. He was there for three years.”
Independent Monitoring Board member Charles Pinner said prisoners frustrated by delays in their release date caused by bureaucracy were tempted to walk.
He said: “It happens when administration gets behind.”
An ex-official of the national Parole Board said last year there was a risk of jail disturbances and compensation claims due to delays in assessing inmates for release.
Sir David Latham said: "There is an obligation under the European Convention for Human Rights for a person to have his release considered within a proper time limit, and if that time limit is exceeded he is entitled to ask the courts for damages.”
This week police appealed for help in tracking down a second murderer who walked out of Ford Prison.
Paul Flint, 48, a convicted murderer and burglar, absconded July 1 and police believe he could have committed three burglaries in Brighton and Hove since.
In June 2012 Flint went on the run from Hollesley Bay prison in Suffolk while on day release and was recaptured six days later at his brother’s home in Bristol.
Ford Prison’s “lax security” was exposed in 2011 when a Sun journalist broke in and chatted to inmates as they drank vodka and brandy, smoked cannabis and texted on illicit mobile phones.
The newspaper said the break in “illustrated perfectly the woeful level of security” just weeks after masked prisoners went on a New Year’s Day drunken, drug-fuelled rampage and torched buildings, causing £5m of damage.
A Ministry of Justice Spokesman said: “The level of absconding from open prisons in 2012/13 was the second lowest since records began.
“Absconds are still 13 per cent lower under this Government. We are not complacent about this issue and are looking at ways in which the risk of absconding can be reduced further.
“We are committed to ensuring that risk to the public is minimised. All those located in open conditions have been rigorously risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public.”
- Passmore is 6ft 1in, stocky, with brown hair and hazel eyes, and had a goatee beard when he was last seen.
Police said he was “not currently assessed as a direct physical threat to the public” and had connections in Twickenham, Sutton, Kingston, and Maidstone.
It is not clear whether he absconded from the prison grounds or failed to return from a trip out of the prison. Offenders are given time out of the prison to prepare for the return to civilian life.
Passmore beat to death Paul Craig, 34, who was crippled was arthritis, in Hampton in October 1996, after erroneously deciding Mr Craig was seeing his estranged girlfriend.
According to newspaper reports at the time, Mr Craig, an unemployed bachelor from Fulton Close, Hampton, was viciously beaten and left dying in Starling Walk, just 10 minutes from his home.
At his sentencing in 1997, Passmore was told he would spend at least 14 years behind bars but, at a review at the Royal Courts of Justice later that year, a judge decided to reduce the minimum time to 11 years.
Anyone who sees Passmore, or who knows where he may be, is asked not to approach him but to contact 101 quoting Sussex Police Serial 1532 of 22/6.
You can also call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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