Macarthur enjoys brief taste of freedom -- but no full release date set
INFAMOUS murderer Malcolm Macarthur was back behind bars last night and still in the dark about when he will be free to walk away from custody for the final time.
He has served almost 29 years in prison and is now 65. He was allowed out on temporary release over the weekend to visit relatives and spent his time in south Co Dublin.
It was his seventh release from the open centre at Shelton Abbey, outside Arklow, Co Wicklow, where he was transferred in May 2004 after a parole board recommended he be moved there to test his suitability for eventual full release.
His weekend break is part of a structured programme of temporary release, approved by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Before the programme was introduced recently, Macarthur had been allowed out for a few hours on Christmas Day with a relative. Last year was the fourth time he spent out of prison and on each occasion he has abided by the terms of his release.
However, a decision on a full release has not yet been determined. Prison sources indicated last night that this is not likely to be taken for some time.
Macarthur's position will be studied further by the Parole Board as he continues to participate in the programme.
A senior Justice official told the Irish Independent last night: "It is most unusual to comment on any prisoner where decisions on temporary release are made. However, this may be merited in the particular circumstances and public interest in a case."
He pointed out that, in line with normal practice, a number of conditions were attached to Macarthur's programme and these were closely supervised by the Probation Service. If there was a breach, Macarthur could be returned to prison.
Macarthur was captured by gardai in the Dalkey home of former Attorney General Patrick Connolly by gardai investigating the murders of nurse Bridie Gargan in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, and farmer Donal Dunne, from Edenderry, Co Offaly.
Macarthur was subsequently convicted of the Gargan murder and the State entered a nolle prosequi in the Dunne case.
After a weekend spent in Dun Laoghaire and surrounding areas, Macarthur jumped on the Dublin to Rosslare bus yesterday evening and travelled to Templegrainey, two miles from Shelton, shortly after 6pm.
He spoke to journalists as he walked into a store to phone the prison and ask to be collected.
Photographer Garry O'Neill said Macarthur seemed very self-assured and confident.
"I know you are only doing your job but you will understand if I don't try to make it easier for you. I would like to keep my anonymity," he said.