Murderer Macarthur takes first steps to freedom
NOTORIOUS killer Malcolm Macarthur walked out of prison for his first extended leave at the weekend as part of a gradual process to return him to society.
While the convicted killer has been out on day release before, prison sources said this marked his longer period of freedom since being jailed for life in 1983.
The move is likely to be the first in a process towards the full, indefinite liberty of the notorious double murderer who bludgeoned nurse Bridie Gargan (27) to death with a lump hammer in the Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1982 before shooting Offaly farmer Donal Dunne in the head three days later.
Macarthur's eventual apprehension by gardai in a Dalkey apartment owned by the then Attorney General Patrick Connolly resulted in Conor Cruise O'Brien coining the acronym GUBU (grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented).
This weekend it is believed that Macarthur (66), who has been incarcerated at the open prison Shelton Abbey in Co Wicklow, travelled to Dublin where he was staying with a family member.
"This will be the first of a series of releases that he will get up until he gets full release under conditions. There are conditions but he will be out for good," a well placed source said yesterday.
"Now that he has gotten his first (extended leave), you won't be waiting for another year for another one."
Arguably the country's most notorious inmate, Macarthur's three-decade incarceration is far in excess of the average sentence served in Ireland by convicted killers.
Such is the level of his notoriety that many believed he would never be set free.
However, given this weekend's events, sources believe the wheels are now firmly in motion to contradict that commonly held view.
"He has been out previously for a day but this is the first full weekend release since he was in prison," said a source.
"Part of the programme would be that he would get so many periods out every five or six months. He would get a day out and that would go on to a full weekend out and this is the first one he has got."
Although each case is different and difficult to predict, the source said that it's likely Macarthur will begin to receive further extended periods of freedom under the temporary release scheme.
The pace and extent of this process will depend on his conduct and future decisions will be taken by the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
An IPS spokesman said it could not comment on individual cases.
"Everything will depend on his own behaviour but it will move ahead at pace now that he has gotten his first release," the source continued.
Macarthur would have applied for permission to leave Shelton Abbey and it is understood he was released on Friday; he was likely to return either last night or this morning.
He has been released regularly in the past to spend Christmas Day with family.
It has been commonly agreed that Macarthur's lengthy incarceration is the result of his notoriety and the fact that no justice minister wanted their legacy muddied with the sanction of his release.