Manhunt launched after infamous child killer John Clifford goes on the run from prison
Relatives of his victims had warned the authorities that he should never be freed and now their worst nightmares have been confirmed.
Police are on the lookout for an infamous child killer in Northern Ireland who is unlawfully at large after he failed to go back to Maghaberry Prison. Relatives of his victims had warned the authorities that he should never be freed but now their worst fears have been confirmed. 56-year-old John Clifford, a murderer who currently uses a mobility scooter, was released from the Burren House on Crumlin House on September 2 to go for an appointment but then just never went back. Burren House is a unit of Maghaberry Prison and it is a housing for prisoners before their long jail sentences come to an end. The man had raped and strangled and killed Sue Ellen Clifford, his niece before he abandoned her body at a deserted railway line in 1988. The elderly man was released in 2005 but was sent back to prison in 2007 because he broke the terms of his probation.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Clifford had been babysitting the child in her own home located on the Rathcoole estate in the north of Belfast the same night that she was killed. The man got drunk and took the young girl from her bedroom before he coerced her to walk with him next to the Belfast to Carrickfergus railway tracks.
Sue Ellen asked him to carry her because she was pretty tired at that point and Clifford did as she asked. That's when he realized she was not wearing underwear and started to sexually assault the child. The horrified girl started screaming for her life and that's when he strangled her with a strap and then unceremoniously dumped her near the tracks. Initially, Clifford denied the murder but finally confessed after being questioned for three days.
A little less than two years after the girl's tragic death, Martha Adair, her mother, committed suicide out of grief. She just couldn't go on living without her daughter. The lift of offenses that Clifford has against him includes assaults and child cruelty. Relatives in the family have spoken earlier of the fear they have that Clifford would kill another child if he was ever released from prison.
Deborah Adair, Sue Ellen's sister, said in 2010 that if her uncle was ever set free from prison he would kill another child. She said: "Mark my words, he will rape or murder another child. John Clifford is pure evil. That man destroyed my family - he didn't only murder my sister Sue Ellen, he was responsible for the suicide of my mummy."
Inspector Paul Noble said after Clifford did not reappear on September 2 when he was released: "We have initiated inquiries to locate John Clifford. He is described as being 1.75m tall with green eyes and fair hair. He is of medium build with a fresh complexion. When last seen he was wearing a black beanie style hat, heavy black coat, grey trousers and black dress shoes. He was last seen using a distinctive three-wheel mobility scooter bearing the registration plate EXZ 4974. Members of the public or anyone with information about his whereabouts should contact us immediately on 101."
The Northern Ireland Prison Service said in a statement that it is currently investigating "the circumstances surrounding the abscondment of John Clifford". It also added: "At this time we are focused on returning him to custody and we would ask anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately."