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Man on run convicted of Yarmouth murder

PUBLISHED: 10:42 29 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:16 03 July 2010

A RAPIST, who was convicted of murdering a Norfolk pensioner while on the run from a secure mental health unit, was warned he could face spending nearly the rest of his life behind bars.

A RAPIST, who was convicted of murdering a Norfolk pensioner while on the run from a secure mental health unit, was warned he could face spending nearly the rest of his life behind bars.

Terrence O'Keefe, 39, was found guilty on Friday of murdering 73-year-old David Kemp in Yarmouth in March last year.

Prosecutors told Norwich Crown Court that O'Keefe strangled Mr Kemp with a belt and then stole his television and £18 cash to buy drugs.

Police did not initially think that Mr Kemp, who lived alone in a flat, had been murdered.

But about a month after his death, one of O'Keefe's associates Paul Vickers turned in O'Keefe to police after he was also threatened.

O'Keefe had escaped from a unit in London where he was serving a life sentence imposed in 1996 after he was convicted of rape and robbery.

The jury at Norwich Crown Court heard that O'Keefe had given his guard the slip while having treatment at a hospital and then went to Yarmouth, where he lived under a false name.

Prosecutor Graham Parkins said that, while on the run, O'Keefe had twice contacted police and claimed benefits. He said O'Keefe was convicted of robbery and having sex with an underage girl in September 1991 and given a 57-month custodial sentence, then in June 1996 at the Old Bailey, O'Keefe was given a life term - with a recommendation he should serve at least 10 years - after being convicted of rape, false imprisonment and robbery.

O'Keefe, who denied murder, is due to be sentenced in September when psychiatric reports will be available but Mr Justice Saunders said he could face up to 30 years in jail.

Afterwards a spokesman for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said O'Keefe's escape “should not have happened” and apologised unreservedly.

He said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to all those affected by Mr David Kemp's death.”

He said they had since tightened up on procedures and made major improvements: “Changes we have made include increasing the escort to as many as four staff per patient.

“Where necessary, we now use security guards who are authorised to apply handcuffs. We are also piloting the use of an electronic tracking system for the first time in the UK mental health system.”

During the trial, jurors heard that O'Keefe had used the name “James Daniels” while living in Yarmouth.

While on the run, O'Keefe had gone to Bethel Street police station to make a false report alleging his rucksack had been stolen in order to use the documentation to travel to Dublin.

Det Chief Insp Steve Strong, who led the inquiry, said it was not realistic for staff at police stations to recognise every prisoner who might be on the run: “You have to be realistic, there may be hundreds of people on the run at any one time and it's impossible for police staff to simply recognise every one.”

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