Held killer faces extradition: Arrest an hour before legal loophole would have let runaway go free

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BRITAIN is seeking the extradition of an escaped killer arrested in Ireland 62 minutes before a legal loophole would have meant he was a free man.

James Rudman, 40, who absconded from a secure Leicester hospital after being convicted of the manslaughter, two years ago, of his wife Susan, 41, was remanded in custody by Tralee District Court in Co Kerry yesterday. He is appearing again on Wednesday and his solicitor said he will contest extradition.

Rudman was arrested at a house six miles from Tralee after an operation involving the Garda and Leicester police.

At his trial he was ordered to receive psychiatric treatment in a secure unit at Towers hospital under section 37 of the Mental Health Act after a plea of diminished responsibility was accepted. He had stabbed his wife repeatedly during an argument and Leicester Crown Court had heard evidence from five doctors that he was mentally ill.

Section 37 stipulates that a patient not showing fresh signs of mental illness for 28 days after the cessation of medical treatment can remain at liberty. Robert Thorton, the dead woman's brother, said: 'Rudman is a very clever and manipulative man. I believe he did his homework, discovered the loophole and hoped to be laughing in the face of the law.'

His family has a 3,000-signature petition calling for a change in the law. Their MP, Keith Vaz, is seeking urgent meetings with the Secretary of State for Health and the Home Secretary - and may pursue a private member's Bill, but yesterday the Department of Health said the legislation was under review.

Mr Justice McCullough, who presided over Rudman's trial last August, had intended to impose a five-year sentence but revised his view on hearing that Rudman would not be released from psychiatric care untildeemed fit by a medical team regularly reviewing his case. It was suggested he would be detained for at least 18 months.

Rudman had applied to a medical tribunal to be released shortly before he escaped, but had been turned down. He absconded during an unsupervised walk in the hospital grounds. There is provision under section 41 of the Act to place restrictions on the freedom of a convicted criminal under psychiatric care, but a judge must be satisfied that the person poses a threat to public safety.

The department said in some cases psychiatric reports on people convicted of violent crime conclude they are a danger only to immediate family.

Ian Bynoe, legal director of Mind, the mental health charity, said cases such as Rudman's were rare. 'For the tiny minority of cases like this the law should be changed to prevent the consequences which nearly occurred here.'

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