Outrage as triple police killer granted freedom

Roberts gunned down the officers while preparing for a robbery. Picture: PA
Roberts gunned down the officers while preparing for a robbery. Picture: PA
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THE daughter of an officer murdered by police killer Harry Roberts has said that she is “sickened” at his release.

Roberts, now 78, was jailed for life for killing three unarmed policemen in an act which shocked the country and was condemned by the judge as “the most heinous crime for a generation or more”.

He has been behind bars for nearly 48 years after shooting dead Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, 30, Detective Constable David Wombwell, 25, and Constable Geoffrey Fox, 41, in 1966.

But in a move which has sparked angry protests from police and politicians, the parole board announced that he is to be released from Littlehey prison, Cambridgeshire.

Mandy Fox, the youngest daughter of Mr Fox, branded the decision a “disgrace”.

She said: “I would like to complain strongly to the Ministry of Justice for not informing our family that this release had been granted and was imminent. It has impacted severely on myself, as I have health problems compounded greatly by the devastation caused by Mr Roberts and company, and it sickens me to know that this is happening without any prior notice being given in order to prepare myself mentally for what is a very emotional time.

“What signal does this show our courageous serving police officers throughout the country who put their lives on the line daily for our protection? It is an utter disgrace and should never have been allowed.”

Her comments came after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe condemned Roberts’s release. Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May also said life should mean life for police killers.

Roberts was sitting with two accomplices in a van near Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London preparing for an armed robbery when he opened fire on the three unarmed officers. He shot dead Mr Head and Mr Wombwell while Mr Fox was killed by accomplice John Duddy.

The triple murder shocked the nation, and Roberts would have hanged but for the death penalty being abolished the year before.

His upcoming release has been condemned by police, who said it was a “betrayal” of the dead officers. Sir Bernard said: “Roberts pleaded guilty to two cold-blooded murders and was involved, with his accomplices, in a third. He was convicted of all three murders. The murdered officers were unarmed and in 1966 were doing their duty, just as officers do today.

“Officers of yesterday and today deserve the full protection of the law when facing ruthless criminals. In this case life should have meant what it said.”

Mrs May said: “I strongly believe that anyone who murders a police officer belongs behind bars – and behind bars for life.”

Trial judge Mr Justice Glyn-Jones jailed Roberts for life at the Old Bailey, giving him a minimum 30-year tariff.

But in his sentencing remarks, the judge suggested Roberts would never be released. He said: “This is one of those cases in which the sentence of imprisonment for life may well be treated as meaning exactly what it says.”

The Metropolitan Police Federation labelled the decision a “betrayal of policing by the judicial system”. It said: “It is a scandalous, hurtful and abhorrent decision which opens the door even further for those who have scant regard for law and order.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Londoners “will be absolutely sickened by this news”.