James Meehan was sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of popular Derry man ‘Gentle’ Jim McFadden in May 2007.
Three months ago we revealed how James Meehan had gone Awol while on weekend leave from a pre-release ‘open’ prison in north Belfast.
He had been staying in Burren House which holds up to 20 prisoners in unlocked cells, most of whom are lifers nearing the end of their sentences.
Meehan was sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of popular Derry man ‘Gentle’ Jim McFadden in May 2007.
We understand that Meehan (53), who cruelly battered the popular father of four to death, went to stay in Kells, Co Meath, where he is originally from.
As reported at the time, the authorities in Northern Ireland seem hamstrung in efforts to get him to return to prison because he has already served more than his original tariff.
This week the PSNI told the Sunday Worldthey were “actively seeking” Meehan and appealed for witnesses to contact them about his whereabouts.
However, we understand Meehan is living openly in the Kells area which is around 40 miles from the border.
And when asked what “actively seeking” meant, the PSNI responded by saying they had “nothing further” to say on the matter.
While members of his victim’s family are sure to be horrified that Meehan has gone on the run once again, we understand there’s little can be done as he has served more than his minimum term of 14 years by now.
“He has an Irish passport and has served his minimum term,” said a source and Magilligan Prison this week.
“He’s due for permanent release anyway soon or at least he was until he went on the run. There’s not much they can do. The authorities in the Republic aren’t going to hold a man who’s served his sentence.
“And the authorities in the North know it’s not worth spending tens of thousands of pounds in a drawn-out legal battle to get him back.”
When asked about the search for Meehan, a PSNI spokesperson told us: “Police are actively seeking this individual and anyone with any information as to his whereabouts should contact police on 101 or submit a report online using our non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/”
But they refused to detail what, if any, efforts were being made if he was living openly in the Republic.
In October we revealed how prison chiefs from HMP Magilligan, where his leave was being managed, raised the alarm.
Officers went to the agreed Derry address that Meehan had been allowed to stay at on the weekend of October 8 and 9 so they could carry out a routine alcohol check, but he was not there.
With his sentence coming to an end, Meehan is a Phase 2 prisoner in Burren House on the Crumlin Road, Belfast, where inmates enjoy more freedom. But we revealed how Meehan was in Kells and sources at Magilligan Prison believe he’s been making the illegal cross-border trip repeatedly for months.
Mr McFadden died after he was viciously assaulted in the city following a wedding reception in the Redcastle Hotel in Co Donegal in 2007.
Meehan, who was described by the murder trial judge as “a marauding attacker who showed no mercy to a defenceless man”, was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in prison.