On-The-Run UK Sex Offender Caught Here After Seven Years

Residents of a small town were last night “disturbed” that one of Britain’s most wanted child sex offenders had been living in their midst for up to seven years.

John Murrell (39) went missing after failing to register with police in the UK on his early release from prison in September 2000. He was traced to Athy, Co Kildare, on Friday afternoon by officers acting on a European Arrest Warrant, and came quietly when approached by local gardai.

His wife, Catherine Murrell, who was also wanted for questioning by UK police in relation to allegations of child cruelty, was with him.

Last night Athy Town Council’s Labour party Cathaoirleach Aoife Breslin said people would be shocked that someone wanted in the UK was able to set up a new life in Ireland without checks.

“It is a deeply disturbing fact that someone can perhaps change their identity or move country and nobody is checking effectively,” she said.

“I don’t want to send anyone haywire with worry or blow things out of proportion. But still, it is a concern and for the sake of our children it is a very worrying development.”

Officers had been tipped off by locals who recognised Murrell and matched his face with a “Most Wanted” website, despite his efforts to disguise his identity. Officers said they received “several bits of information” that there were sightings of him. They knew he had links with Ireland. A spokesperson for West Mercia Police said: “We had some reported sightings of Murrell. He was found through good old fashioned police work and help from the public.”

He was found with his wife Catherine (29) whom he met when she was just 14 and married when she was 18.

Murrell, who faces extradition to Britain, was remanded in custody at Cloverhill Prison and and will appear before the the High Court today.

He was last heard of in Worcestershire in 2000 and West Mercia Police have been leading the search. He failed to report to the probation hostel he was assigned to on his release from prison, where he served half his sentence for three counts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a nine-year-old girl.

He was told he could only see his children under supervision, but within weeks of his early release from prison the whole family had disappeared.

His case has featured in numerous public appeals including the BBC ‘Crimewatch’ programme. During the search, police received reports of possible sightings in Wales, England, the North and even as far away as Canada.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards, of West Mercia Constabulary , said: “A significant amount of effort has gone into locating Murrell including using ‘Crimewatch’ and liaising with other law enforcement agencies across the world.”

Detective Superintendent Martin Lakeman said the force was “grateful to all those who came forward and provided information to assist the investigation team.”