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Missing child sex offender caught at park

A serial sex-offender has been nabbed by gardai on a riverbank frequented by children.

William Paden (56) was detained following a major search by police forces here, in the North, and in Britain.

He was captured after a local person in Ballyhaise, Co Cavan, recognised the high-risk offender near a swimming area popular with children and alerted gardai.

Paden, a native of Northern Ireland, was on the run from UK authorities after absconding from his address in Blackpool last month. He had been wanted by British police for recall to prison for breaching the terms of his release from prison. He was listed as a "significant risk" of reoffending.

A search here was launched after reported sightings in Co Donegal and in the North. Paden was found lounging on grass on the riverbank at 4pm yesterday.

"He was lying in the grass and he had a hat over his head," a garda source said.

Gardai reassured local parents that Paden had not made any attempt to speak to children or "do anything untoward".

He was brought to Cavan garda station for questioning. A garda spokesman told the Herald today he spent the night in garda custody in Cavan.

Paden has 19 sexual convictions dating back to 1974, including rape, indecent assault on a young girl and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

In 1994 Paden, known as Irish Billy, was jailed for seven years for raping a 24-year-old in Scotland. He admitted breaking into the woman's home and raping her.

He was acquitted of two other rape charges. He had previously served three years in jail for "assault with intent to ravish" in 1985, and eight months for indecent assault in 1991.

He was released on licence in 2009 and was prohibited from associating with children unless they were accompanied by an adult over 21 years of age. The high-risk offender was being sought with a view to having him returned to prison.

He was expected to appear in court today because he has breached the terms of his prison release. As a registered sex offender he is required under European law to register in whatever country he travels to within seven days. He did not register in Ireland. It is also likely that the Lancashire police will seek his extradition.

The head of the public protection unit there described Paden as having "a history of convictions against children going back more than 30 years".

"I believe he poses a significant risk of harm," said Det Supt Ian Critchley.