British officials applied to extradite Alan Reeve from the Netherlands, but withdrew the request at the last moment in the hope that the Dutch authorities would expel him to London.
But the judge in Zwolle refused to deport Reeve after expressing 'irritation' that the legal authorities in both countries had co-operated before the hearing.
In 1964, Reeve stabbed a 15- year-old boy to death and was committed to Broadmoor, where he strangled a fellow patient three years later. In 1981, he escaped and was involved in a gun-fight with detectives in the Netherlands. He shot dead one policeman and wounded another before being arrested and jailed for 15 years by a Dutch court.
Earlier this year he was released on parole, prompting the British authorities to apply for his extradition so that he could be taken back to Broadmoor. 'A doctor went to assess him before he was paroled and decided it would be appropriate to return him here,' a Home Office spokesperson said.
However, shortly before the extradition hearing was due to start earlier this month, British officials 'took back their demand for extradition', according to a Dutch Ministry of Justice spokesperson.
Instead, the Dutch authorities asked for permission to jail Reeve and then deport him to London. Their application was given short shrift. 'The court was irritated because it suspected some co-operation between Dutch and British authorities,' the spokesperson said. The ministry says it only has a forwarding address for Reeve, but that he has to report to the police once a week.
Both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice accept that they were in contact before making the application, with British officials insisting they acted on Dutch advice and that the co-operation was normal in such matters. The Dutch have appealed against the decision to free Reeve.
A spokesman for the Thames Valley Police, which helped compile the request for Reeve's extradition, said: 'We are taking appropriate measures in the light of his freedom. If he is caught in this country he will be arrested immediately and returned to Broadmoor. He is unlawfully at large here and still an escaped prisoner.'
The case highlights concerns over extradition procedures in Europe, which are widely seen to have failed despite implementation of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism five years ago.
Both the British and Spanish governments are pressing for the introduction of new measures to ease extradition arrangements within the European Community. Spain has tabled the most radical plans, calling for extradition between EC countries to be made an almost automatic process.
However, many lawyers say the problem lies with the legal authorities who attempt to implement the procedures. In a series of cases, some involving suspected IRA terrorists, elementary blunders have prevented extradition.Reuse content