Prisoner on muder charge freed in error

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The Independent Online

A prisoner who is charged with murder and considered to be a danger to the public was released from custody in error, police said today.

Police are carrying out a "widespread search" for Jason Bethell, 31, of Jaywick, Essex, who was charged with the murder of 58-year-old John Smith who died following a stabbing.

Mr Smith died in hospital two months after he was injured in Jaywick on 11 July.

Bethell was charged with murder on November 9 and remanded in custody by magistrates in Colchester.

But he was released from Chelmsford Prison yesterday.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Police were made aware of his release on Tuesday morning and a widespread search is under way to find Bethell, who is considered to be a danger to the public."

Detective Superintendent John Quinton said: "Bethell should be in prison awaiting trial and we want to get him back in custody as quickly as possible.

"If anyone knows where he is, they should let us know immediately, and if he is listening to this on radio or watching it on television, he should make his whereabouts known to us immediately."

Bethell, who is due to appear at Chelmsford Crown Court on 1 February, is described as white, of thin build, with shaven dark brown hair and a tattoo on his right arm.