Inquiry begins as jailed fraudster wrongly freed

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The Independent Online
JOJO MOYES

A top-level inquiry was launched after it emerged the self-styled "King of the Sting" Barry Gray was wrongly released last week.

Police were informed that the conman, who counts Rupert Murdoch, the CIA and the KGB among his victims, was "unlawfully at large". The 61-year- old "gentleman swindler" was sentenced to two years' imprisonment by the senior Southwark Crown Court judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, on Monday of last week.

But apparent confusion over the judge's remarks meant that hours later Gray was told he could go.

In a statement released last night, a Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed an inquiry had been launched. A spokeswoman said: "I can confirm he should not have been released.

"It would appear that the release was sanctioned after a misinterpretation of the judge's comments. Alan Walker, director of operations of the Prison Service, has appointed a senior governor to hold a full and immediate inquiry.

"The inquiry will examine the involvement of Securicor who were responsible for the prisoner while at Southwark Crown Court and the release procedures at Brixton Prison."

When he was sentenced Gray, who may have already returned to his home in the south of France, was condemned by the judge for the "great mischief and consternation" his "extraordinary offences" had caused.

He had pleaded guilty to nine offences of deception and one of attempted deception involving losses of pounds 3,250 between June 1991 and February 1993.

The court was told that Gray had spun tales of industrial espionage, telephone bugging, surveillance and blackmail for 40 years.

A Securicor spokesman said last night: "We will, of course, be co-operating fully in the inquiry and be providing full information about the communication between our court staff and Brixton prison immediately prior to the release of this prisoner."

Scotland Yard said police could do nothing until a warrant was issued for Gray's arrest by the court.

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