Delay in warning the public about killer on the run from prison described as 'incredibly concerning' by MP

The delay between a dangerous killer going on the run and the public being warned not to approach him has been called 'incredibly concerning'.

Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 4:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 4:55 pm
Thomas Parkinson, who is wanted by police after absconding from Kirkham open prison (Picture: Lancashire Police)

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said he will quiz Lancashire's most senior police officer, Ch Con Andy Rhodes, about the length of time it took police to alert people to Thomas Parkinson's disappearance.

The 31-year-old, jailed for knifing a guest to death after gatecrashing a party in 2006, absconded from Kirkham open prison last Wednesday.

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Parents of murder victim Shaun Higgins, Stan and Kath Higgins, at their home in Ribbleton in 2007

In a public appeal this morning, Lancashire Police said: "Parkinson could be violent and we would ask anyone who knows where he is not to approach him but to call police immediately."

When asked why readers were not told sooner, a spokesman added: "We were conducting address checks and other enquiries."

Mr Menzies said: "It’s incredibly concerning to hear of this situation, especially given the length of time that has passed between Parkinson absconding and it being made public.

“I understand, at times, it’s best for police not to go public when they have intelligence which may lead to a swift arrest, but I will be speaking to the chief constable [Andy Rhodes] and to the prison about the length of time it has taken for this to come to light.”

Thomas Parkinson pictured at the time of his jail sentence

HMP Kirkham, which can hold 589 men, has had a number of prisoners abscond in recent years, though inspectors – who noted a “serious problem” with drugs – last year found the number of inmates going missing had fallen since a new strategy was brought in two years ago.

A separate report revealed how hundreds of prisoners were being sent back to closed prisons, with many judged to be ‘unsuitable’ to be there, leading to Coun Elaine Silverwood saying last April she was “certainly not happy” about “potentially dangerous prisoners in an open prison who can just walk out the gate.”

Parkinson, formerly of Acacia Road, Preston, became a killer when he gatecrashed a party in August 2006 with two pals. He was asked to leave but, before doing so, he went to the kitchen and hid a large knife in his waistband.

After being thrown out the house, in Oakworth Avenue, the trio kicked the front door down and Parkinson charged in, attacking guest Shaun Higgins. The 23-year-old, of Grange Avenue, Preston, staggered into the living room and collapsed on to a chair.

He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where emergency surgery was carried out, but Mr Higgins died from his injuries at 11.41pm.

“He had suffered a significant stab wound to his back, below the shoulder blade, which entered 12cm deep, fracturing a rib and entering the lung,” a court heard.

Parkinson, then 19, was sentenced to serve a minimum of 12 years.

In response to Mr Menzies' concerns, Lancashire Police released the following statement: "The police and other agencies follow numerous lines of enquiry to try and trace persons who abscond from lawful custody to return them to prison.

"A public appeal can be a valuable tool and is always an option open to the police but it has to be considered in terms of being relevant, proportionate and necessary by investigating officers.

"When a public appeal is used we are always grateful to both the media and the general public for their support."