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National newspaper claims Derbyshire Police allowed murderer David Richards to remain at large

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: June 10, 2014

POLICE chiefs have reacted to claims they allowed a murderer to stay on the run for nine years after he walked out of Sudbury open prison.

A report by the Daily Mail said Derbyshire police "merely logged the disappearance" of David Richards when he absconded from the jail in 2005.

The paper claimed the 53-year-old, who was convicted of killing a 16-year-old in London in 1984, was only recaptured at the weekend after it tipped the police off about his whereabouts in Wolverhampton.

In response, Derbyshire Police said its procedures for searching for absconding prisoners had "improved" since 2005 and that it was "reviewing its system".

Richards, along with his then-girlfriend, was convicted of the murder of teenager Michael Groves in 1984.

The couple attacked him with a knife and hammer, leaving him with more than 50 injuries. They then daubed "Hell's Angels" on the wall in his blood.

Richards was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Just months before he was due for release from Sudbury, he walked out.

The Mail claims that Derbyshire Police logged his disappearance on a national database, but "took no further action".

The article says: "Instead it was left to the Metropolitan Police, which dealt with the original murder, to travel to Wolverhampton and arrest Richards.

"Detectives discovered the Hell's Angel in a flat near his parents, where the keen odd jobber was known for helping neighbours."

The Mail article goes on to say how Richards had been able to claim benefits under his own name.

Derbyshire police said its officers travelled to Wolverhampton on Friday and charged Richards with escaping from lawful custody.

He appeared at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court on Saturday and was remanded in prison custody.

He is due to appear at Wolverhampton Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on August 29.

Assistant Chief Constable Karl Smethem said: "When the Daily Mail rang us, we contacted the Metropolitan Police so that we could work together.

"When he absconded from Sudbury Prison, his details were circulated on the Police National Computer and Derbyshire Constabulary informed the Metropolitan Police that he was likely to return to London, which is where he was from and where he committed the offence he was imprisoned for.

"Other than being placed in prison, Richards has no links to Derbyshire. Since he absconded, the police carried out periodic checks to find him but had not uncovered any positive leads.

"Although our procedures for searching for absconders has been improved since 2005 we are reviewing the system to ensure that we provide the best service possible to the community."

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