Thursday 29 June 2017

Major gangland figure who escaped prison two years ago returned to jail

Loughan House in Co Cavan, inset, John Paul Durcan
Loughan House in Co Cavan, inset, John Paul Durcan
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

A major gangland figure who escaped from an open prison and fled the country over two years ago has been returned to Irish prison.

The Irish Prison Service has confirmed that Tallaght man John Paul Duncan (33) was extradited from the UK yesterday.

Duncan walked out of Loughan House open prison on February 5, 2015.

He was serving a 10-year sentence for the unlawful possession of drugs and was originally jailed in May 2010. He had been transferred from Castlerea prison just two days earlier.

John Paul Duncan
John Paul Duncan

Duncan was arrested in the UK in 2015 and yesterday Gardaí from Cavan travelled to the UK to take him back into custody.

He was returned to this jurisdiction, charged with Escape from Lawful Custody and brought before Virginia District Court.

He was remanded to appear before Virginia District Court and was brought to Castlerea Prison where he remains.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said they transfer prisoners to open centres to aid their rehabilitation and prepare them for their eventual release.

"Prisoners transferring to open centres are given a greater level of trust in that they are accommodated with a lower level of security. The majority of prisoners honour that trust.

"However, a small number of prisoners choose to abscond. The Irish Prison Service is committed to working with all appropriate agencies to ensure that those who abscond from custody are vigorously pursued until they are returned to custody."

Before Duncan was locked up, some of his closest associates were suspected of carrying out a reign of gang terror in the Tallaght area which included the unsolved murder of Paul Byrne, whose body was discovered in July 2010, near Blessington.

Duncan was himself involved in a number of serious feud-related incidents including a gang attack in which a man was pulled from his car and brutally beaten.

At Duncan's sentencing hearing in Dublin Circuit Court in 2010, evidence was given that he had his ankles and knees sledge-hammered by people unhappy over the loss of the drugs seized by gardai at the Swiftwood Apartments, Saggart on November 26, 2007.

The court heard that gardai uncovered cannabis resin, cannabis and ecstasy with a combined valued of €2.8m after searching two vans parked outside the apartment complex in Saggart.

Duncan previously staged an escape from Tallaght courthouse as he was being led into a garda van in February 2010.

His escape is the second high-profile crime figure to abscond in less than two months.

Lee McDonnell (23) from Ballyfermot was recaptured less than a fortnight ago in Ronanstown, west Dublin. He had escaped when prison staff bringing him from hospital on December 17 stopped to buy him chips in Inchicore.

McDonnell has been on a punishment regime since he was caught and the same fate awaits Duncan if he is found.

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