Tuesday 26 September 2017

Brockwell: a man with three aliases who was no mastermind

Derek Brockwell, who escaped from custody by stabbing two prison officers in Tallaght
Derek Brockwell, who escaped from custody by stabbing two prison officers in Tallaght

Paul Williams

A man with three aliases became a household name this week but Derek Brockwell was no criminal mastermind.

Unless you happen to be a viewer of 'Crimewatch UK' or studied Britain's most-wanted list in 2012, his name will have meant nothing to you.

But for a period of 28 hours this week, the Glaswegian armed robber became a household name as Ireland's most wanted man when he was the subject of a frantic manhunt across the island.

On Tuesday afternoon, he staged a dramatic, well-planned escape when he stabbed and seriously injured two prison officers in Tallaght hospital before disappearing on the back of a waiting motorbike.

The next day, he turned up in Belfast where he carried out one armed robbery and attempted another.

When police located him, he was sitting having a drink at a pub. He made no effort to conceal himself.

As officers moved in to make an arrest, Brockwell stabbed himself, causing near-fatal wounds which required major surgery to save his life.

This weekend he is recovering in a Belfast hospital where he is under armed guard, and police are waiting to charge him with four connected offences.

What has emerged since Tuesday is a picture of a violent, out-of-control career criminal who was short on luck.

On March 5 next, the father-of-one won't exactly be celebrating his 54th birthday which he will spend amid familiar surroundings - behind bars in a prison cell.

Brockwell has an astonishing catalogue of crime.

It paints a picture of a man who has a penchant for violence. He never disguised himself and only ever got away with small amounts of cash.

His only effort to hide his identity was the three aliases he has used through the years - Mark Smith, William Taylor or Gary Pierce.

His criminal record includes 36 previous convictions which date back to his late teens.

The offences include a string of assaults, including assault causing harm; possession of drugs; perverting the course of justice; fraud; and shop-lifting.

In 2000, he received a total of 22 life sentences in the Old Bailey in London for 13 counts of robbery and 13 counts of possessing a firearm in the commission of those heists over a three-week period which netted him just £1,500.

A life sentence was 13 years, the judge explained.

In February 2012, he absconded 12 years into his latest term when he was given temporary release to attend a work project outside prison.

He fled to Ireland during that time and stayed at addresses in Dublin and Kildare.

In October of that year, he was arrested for the armed robbery of €4,500 from a bank in Blackrock.

He was also subsequently charged for three other armed robberies, including holding a knife to a man's throat while stealing his wallet.

He was later jailed for a total of seven years, which he was serving when he escaped this week.

Next week, gardaí will travel for a meeting with their colleagues in Belfast.

The PSNI will have first say on Brockwell's future and he is likely to be charged with armed robbery, attempted robbery and possession of a weapon.

He is then likely to be sent back to complete his outstanding sentences in England before gardaí can seek his extradition back to Ireland.

Here he is likely to be charged with attempted murder and possession of a weapon with intent to endanger life.

And then there is the matter of serving the rest of his seven-year jail term. Derek Brockwell will be a very old man before he enjoys a pint again.

Irish Independent

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