John Rooney: Manhunt launched for prolific robber who 'represents a risk of harm to the public'

Rooney has carried out more than 20 robberies

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The Independent Online

A manhunt has been launched for a prolific robber who “represents a risk of harm to the public“ after he walked out of an open prison early Monday, police said.

John Rooney left of HMP Springhill in Aylesbury to take a lift to Bicester at around and was last seen on a bus travelling towards Oxford at around 7:30am, according to Thames Valley Police.

The 47-year-old was half-way through a 24-year jail sentence for kidnap and more than 20 robberies and he was also found guilty of kidnap and false imprisonment at Manchester Crown Court in 2004.

Thames Valley Police warned the public not to approach him because there are ”substantial grounds for believing Rooney represents a risk of harm to the public“.

He is described as having tattoos on both his hands and fingers as well as up his right arm, and possibly other tattoos on his face.

Rooney has links to the Manchester area, including family who live in Oldham and as a result Greater Manchester Police are involved in the investigation.

Chief Inspector Jim Troisi from Oldham police said there was no intelligence to suggest he was in the area but it was possible he might return.

"If any members of the public see Rooney, then I would ask them please do not approach him directly, but call 999 immediately," he added.

The decision to move Rooney to the open prison, where longer term prisoners are prepared for release was criticised by Glyn Travis, a spokesman for the Prison Officers Association (POA).

"Anyone who's in an open prison shouldn't be considered a risk to the public, they shouldn't be there if they are," he said.

He added: "We believe that prisoners who still pose a risk to the public are being sent to the open prison estate too early and therefore when they abscond the police immediately alert the public that this person is a danger."

A Prison Service spokesman said public safety was their top priority and they had made major changes to tighten up temporary release processes.

"Absconds are down 75% over the last 10 years, but each and every incident is taken seriously and the police are contacted urgently," he said. "Open prisons and temporary releases are important tools in rehabilitating offenders, but not at the expense of public safety."

In 2013/2014, a total of 137 inmates absconded from open prisons in England and Wales, which have recently been the subject of controversy after a spate of criminals walked out.