A NOTORIOUS Wigan double killer was back behind bars this morning after sparking a jail break alert.
Darren Pilkington was unaccounted for for more than nine hours yesterday after staff at Spring Hill open prison in Aylesbury, Bucks, found him absent from his cell.
Police immediately contacted the parents of his victim Carly Fairhurst who today told of their dread at hearing the 31-year-old was on the run.
Officers were about to put security on Trevor and Sheila Fairhurst’s home when news came through that Pilkington had been recaptured in another part of the prison. It is not clear at this stage whether or not he had been outside then returned or simply stayed within the precincts all the time.
As an internal investigation was launched, the Fairhursts were wondering whether the episode could be good news for them.
They had been distressed to learn last autumn that 31-year-old Pilkington, who killed their teenaged daughter in 2006 having previously served another manslaughter sentence for the death of Hindley man Paul Akister, was being moved to a lower category of prison.
It was seen as the first step towards his release and another parole hearing is set for September when privileges such as day release were to have been discussed.
The Hindley couple have been told that that hearing will still go ahead, but after blotting his copybook in such a serious way he is more likely to be sent back to a higher category of prison than take a step nearer to freedom.
Lorry driver Trevor was working on a night shift at Leyland’s Waitrose depot when he got a call from Sheila.
He said: “She was in bits. The police had just turned up on the doorstep to say that Pilkington had escaped from prison. It came as a big shock, the thought of him out on the streets.
“They asked her if he had ever threatened her. She said ‘no’ but that he had threatened me once.
“I then tried to get home to be with Sheila and was in a traffic jam on the M61 for three and a half hours because of a burning lorry. It was very stressful.
“Thankfully we then got a call to say that had been found and was back in his cell.
“Now that he is there we can’t but think that he has managed to undo whatever ‘good work’ he did to get nearer to being released.
“I have contacted the victim liaison unit in Atherton and they say the prison has rung them to say Pilkington has already been returned to closed conditions as a result of this and will now stay there until his next parole hearing.”
Carly, 19, became Pilkington’s pen friend while he was serving his jail term for killing Paul Akister and, once he was released, they became a couple.
It proved an abusive relationship although Carly did not confide in her parents about the violence. Then one fateful night in early 2006, Pilkington attacked Carly and pushed her downstairs at a house they were minding for a friend.
Carly was badly injured and her chances of survival worsened because her attacker failed to call 999 for several hours. She remained in a coma for a number of days in hospital before losing her battle for life.
Pilkington, then of Francis Street, Hindley, admitted manslaughter was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection, the judge saying that he spend a minimum of three years and 53 days behind bars.
Had he continued to make a good impression on the parole board, he could have been back on the streets as early as next spring. This now looks far less likely.