Thursday 22 March 2018

Latest: Gardai believe ‘extremely violent’ escaped prisoner is still in Ireland

Officers interviewing anyone who visited armed robber Derek Brockwell in prison over past year

Paul Wiliams, Special Correspondent

GARDAI believe armed robber Derek Brockwell is still in the country this afternoon after stabbing two prison warders before escaping from Tallaght Hospital yesterday.

A major manhunt is ongoing, and it has seen extra officers posted to sea and airports to watch out for the dangerous fugitive while gardai are also working closely with the UK police and the PSNI.

Overnight and today detectives have also been interviewing anyone who had visited Brockwell (53) in Portlaoise maximum security prison over the past 12 months.

However, sources say that he is still likely to be in the greater Dublin area because he has no money or passport.

Meanwhile Dan Buckley, the prison officer who underwent emergency surgery for a stab wound to the stomach, is expected to be moved from intensive care in the next few hours.

His colleague, Graham Flynn who was stabbed in the back and hand is also recovering from his injuries, which were not as serious.

Read more: Security had been relaxed for criminal before escape

It has emerged this afternoon that the two brave officers, understood to be aged in their 30s, attempted to disarm the notorious armed robber when he produced a knife which had been left for him in a toilet by an accomplice.

Gardai say that Brockwell, who is over six feet in height and of a strong build, showed that he was prepared to kill the two officers.

Sources also revealed that Mr Flynn had not realised he had been stabbed in the back until after the incident. He also underwent surgery for his wounds.

Brockwell, who is now facing the prospect of serving the rest of his life in prison if caught, will be even more dangerous than before because he has nothing to lose, a senior security source told

Apart from the criminal investigation into the stabbing of the officers and the escape plot, a separate enquiry will focus on who decided to downgrade the security status of a dangerous criminal who had already escaped from a UK prison in 2012.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has asked for a report into the circumstances surrounding the escape of the convict.

Ms Fitzgerald said it is a priority that Brockwell be returned to prison as quickly as possible, adding her thoughts are with the prison officers who were attacked and injured in the incident.

Brockwell was considered so dangerous he was previously given an armed garda escort for his scheduled visits to Tallaght Hospital where he was undergoing treatment for diabetes.

The Prison Officers Association have revealed that it was decided last year to cancel the garda escort.

The POA also demanded that their members be equipped with stab vests and other devices necessary to protect themselves from attack.

Read more: Prisoner stabs officers amid escape

Said Gabriel Keavney, assistant general secretary of the POA: “We are demanding to know who decided that it was safe enough to remove the garda escort for this man. It beggars belief that the Prison Service would downgrade the status of such a high profile prisoner.”

He added: “There is no way that this escort should have gone ahead without armed gardai, without the (POA) officers having stab proof vests, without pepper spray being provided, extendable batons being provided. All this sort of stuff is normal in other jurisdictions - we’re not allowed it.”

“For years we have been asking the prison service to provide us with up-to-date modern personal protective equipment. There has been no response,” Mr Keaveny explained.

Before being arrested by gardai in October 2012, he had been on the run from English police since February of that year and had even featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch television programme just days before being arrested by detectives in Blackrock, south Dublin.

Brockwell had been given 22 life sentences for a series of armed robberies in London in 1999 but fled from a day-release programme.

Apart from his four armed robbery convictions here, Brockwell has 64 previous convictions in the UK, including 11 for firearms and 11 for robbery.

He is 1.90m (6’3”) tall, has a broad build with brown hair and is described as dangerous.

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