IRA killer escapes in drag

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A convicted IRA killer who escaped from the Maze prison on yesterday passed through at least three security checks dressed as a woman, it emerged.

There was no trace yesterday of 32-year-old Liam Averell, who made his way out amid scores of women and children who had attended a Christmas party at the jail, which is supposed to be the UK's most secure penal institution. The general assumption is that he will follow the traditional republican escapers' route of heading for the Irish Republic.

In the wake of the security breach the Northern Ireland Secretary, Dr Mo Mowlam, announced the setting up of an inquiry to be headed by Dr Martin Narey, head of the prison services's head of security and policy division in London.

He will be assisted by Dr Peter Bennett, governor of Nottingham prison.