Dangerous escaped convict is recaptured outside pub
ESCAPED armed robber Derek Brockwell, who stabbed two prison officers to make his getaway, was back in custody last night after police swooped on him and Tasered him on the streets of Belfast.
Police moved in on the dangerous serial raider outside a busy city centre pub at around 7.30pm, after a mammoth nationwide alert was issued to all ports amid fears he may try to flee the jurisdiction.
Brockwell (53), who is Scottish, was subdued with a Taser when he failed to release a knife he was holding, after the PSNI spotted a man matching his description outside Wetherspoon's Bridge House bar on Belfast's Bedford Street.
It's believed Brockwell was on his own at the time. The pub is close to the Belfast offices of RTE and the BBC, as well as a busy cinema.
It is understood Brockwell received stab wounds that may have been self-inflicted, or occurred as he was captured.
After he was subdued, Brockwell was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was described as being in a stable condition after undergoing a blood transfusion.
A woman at the hospital, whose relative was being treated just yards away from Brockwell, described how he was taken straight to the resuscitation unit with police officers waiting outside the cubicle.
"He is hooked up to heart machines but you can't see his face as it is all bandaged," she said.
Witness James Keaveney, a politics student at the University of Ulster, told RTE Radio's 'Morning Ireland' that it was over "in a minute, a minute and a half".
In an interview broadcast this morning, the student said he was coming into the area when he saw the incident from across the road.
"Obviously there was a lot of commotion. The guy seemed to have some kind of weapon," he said.
"The police were shouting 'have you anything else on ye?'
"They tackled him to the ground. It was over in a minute, a minute and a half."
James said he was quite surprised to see the taser, "but I think it was because he had the weapon and he wasn't dropping it".
James said there weren't many people around and anybody there "just kept on going".
"It was over very very quickly - even after it was finished up, police had already had the place cordoned off.
"I think, definitely, the police did a swift operation anyway. [He was] a dangerous person, good thing they got him now and he's off the street," he added.
The Irish Independent understands that career criminal Brockwell, who was last seen being driven from Tallaght hospital by motorbike following his violent escape on Tuesday, is understood to have carried out up to three robberies yesterday in the city.
The arrest brought to an end an intense manhunt drama which began some 28 hours earlier when he stabbed prison officers Dan Buckley and Graham Flynn before absconding.
Brockwell's detention in Northern Ireland means he may not be sent back to Portlaoise maximum security prison as he can be immediately returned to jail in England from where he absconded three years ago.
At the time of his escape from the UK, he had served 12 years.
Last night, senior gardaí were in contact with their colleagues in the North to establish what will happen next to the man once described as the UK's most wanted criminal.
The garda investigation in Dublin is focusing on identifying the accomplice who was waiting for Brockwell outside the hospital.
Security sources said that they believe the Glasgow-born criminal was then picked up by another associate and driven to the North.
It is now thought that Brockwell planned his escape to coincide with his visit to Tallaght hospital because he knew he would not have an armed garda escort.
He had visited the hospital a number of times in the last year.
It is understood an armed garda escort was never provided for Brockwell, despite prison bosses requesting one on multiple occasions in an eight-month period.
The Prison Officers Association will meet Irish Prison Service executives today to demand to know what caused the security lapse and why Brockwell was not under armed guard.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also asked for a report into the circumstances surrounding the escape.