On-run garda killer detained in Derry

On-run garda killer detained in Derry

A garda killer who went on the run after escaping a low security prison has been caught in the North.

Martin McDermott, 26, was arrested in Derry by the Police Service of Northern Ireland at around 11am.

Jailed for seven years last July for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin, McDermott, from Raphoe in Co Donegal, absconded from Loughan House, an open low security prison in Blacklion, Co Cavan, yesterday.

A Garda spokesman confirmed the escaped prisoner was being detained at a PSNI station in Derry.

A massive cross-border manhunt was launched after McDermott, who was eight months into his sentence, was found to be missing during a headcount at Loughan House at 5pm yesterday.

The jail is close to the border with the North.

Descriptions of the prisoner had been issued to all garda stations, while ports and airports on both sides of the border were put on alert.

Calls have been made for Justice Minister Alan Shatter to launch a full inquiry into the escape.

Dara Calleary, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, described the break-out as “utterly disgraceful”.

“It is intolerable that a person convicted of killing a garda would be detained in a low-security prison and the reports that there is no confirmation on what time he escaped is extraordinary,” he said.

“The Minister for Justice must initiate an immediate investigation and allow a preliminary report to be presented to the Dáil next week.”

McDermott was found guilty of the manslaughter of Garda McLoughlin and the reckless endangerment of Garda Bernard McLaughlin in Burt, Co Donegal, in December 2009.

He was twice over the legal drink-drive limit when he had led detectives on a 30km (19-mile) pursuit – reaching speeds of more than 150kph (93mph) – before crashing into another patrol car and killing a young garda.

McDermott was thrown out of his car and was found 55m (180ft) down the road by gardaí.

He was jailed for eight years, with the last year suspended, and disqualified from driving for 20 years.

The court heard he had 91 previous convictions – many for traffic offences including drink-driving as well as burglary and forgery.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has accused the Government of being "soft" on criminals.

The GRA called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to launch a full inquiry into how Mr McDermott could be serving a seven -year sentence and already be in an open, low security prison.

“We are asking the Minister to examine who made the decision to transfer this newly convicted prisoner to a low security prison – and how does this act as a deterrent to others?" GRA President Damien McCarthy said.

"The law dictates that juries should not get entranced because the victim was a garda. We contend our laws are now out of balance and tipped to favour criminal behaviour."

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