A NOTORIOUS Wigan double killer could be back on the streets within 18 months.
The parents of victim Carly Fairhurst today told of their “shock and devastation” at news that the Parole Board has allowed Darren Pilkington to be moved to a lower category of prison.
The transfer happened last Tuesday to an undisclosed jail, said to be a long way from home. And if Pilkington behaves himself there he could be a free man by April 2015.
That would be little more than nine years since he was arrested for causing his 19-year-old girlfriend’s death, and having previously having served time for the manslaughter of Hindley man Paul Akister.
Trevor and Sheila Fairhurst do not feel that he has served anywhere near long enough in a category A jail. They fear that any good behaviour that might have earned him his downgrade is just a front and that, once released, he could again pose a serious threat to the public.
Both the Probation Service and the police opposed Pilkington’s appeal and a victim impact statement from Carly’s parents was also read out at the hearing. But the board was unmoved by the protestations.
The only reassurances that can be offered to the couple is that any infringements in the coming months will see him sent back to a higher category of prison. And he will be on licence for 10 years. The conditions of this mean that he cannot even enter, never mind live in, Wigan borough or its surrounding towns and he must tell probation if he forms any relationship with a woman. Breaching those terms, which also includes committing further offences, would put him back behind bars.
Now at the lower category prison the 30-year-old will be given a day pass so he can to go into the nearest town.
This will be during daytime hours, not at the weekend, and he is not allowed to bring anything back to the prison (the Fairhursts were told of one inmate who was sent back to high security after trying to smuggle in a phone charger). Pilkington will also be tested for drugs and alcohol on his return.
But these limitations to his freedom offer cold comfort to the couple. Mr Fairhurst said: “We are devastated - it has knocked Sheila for six in particular. We knew this day would one day come but not so soon. It has been a real shock.
“We, like the police and probation service, hoped the parole board would listen to our arguments and realise that this man will still be a major threat, but obviously they didn’t. He has obviously made some kind of good impression on the board but it is hard not to be cynical.
“He knows the system - he has been in prison for killing before - so he knows what he has to do to push all the right buttons.
“It doesn’t mean he has mended his ways. He has never demonstrated to us that he is in any way regretful for what he did for our daughter. Probation say that he has to go to a lower category of prison a long way away from here - but the authorities won’t tell us where - and they say he has no desire to come back and live in these parts.
“But we are hardly reassured. We are terrified that he might commit further crimes. This is a bad day for justice.”
Carly was found fatally wounded at the bottom of a flight of stairs at the house in Ince she and Pilkington were looking after in January 2006. She died several days later and Pilkington, who had given several conflicting stories about his actions and whereabouts that night, was charged with her murder.
At court the prosecution accepted his guilty plea to manslaughter and he was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection, the judge saying that he spend a minimum of three years and 53 days behind bars.
Pilkington had previously been given a four-year sentence for the manslaughter of Mr Akister who was battered to death in Hindley town centre by Pilkington and his brother Andrew.
Since Carly’s death the Fairhursts have played a prominent role in raising money for Victim Support counsellors and highlighting domestic violence.
Only last week did they address a major seminar at Lancashire Police headquarters on the subject.