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Monday, April 6, 1998 Published at 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK


Child killer moved ahead of vigil
image: [ Cooke spent most of his sentence  here at Wandsworth Prison ]
Cooke spent most of his sentence here at Wandsworth Prison

Vigil: "tagging won't work" (48")
Child killer Sidney Cooke is preparing for his release after being smuggled out of jail on Saturday to avoid a confrontation with protesters.

Cooke was moved from Wandsworth prison ahead of a vigil to protest at his release and remember victims of paedophiles.

His transfer to an unnamed secure institution comes as the government considers measures to enable some child sex offenders to be locked up indefinitely.

Protesters were gathering for a candlelight vigil outside the London prison where Cooke, 70, had served most of his term for the manslaughter of 14-year-old Jason Swift.

[ image: Cooke was convicted of raping and strangling a young boy]
Cooke was convicted of raping and strangling a young boy
Cooke, considered one of the country's most notorious paedophiles, was due to be freed on Monday after nine years of a 16-year sentence.

But prison sources said he was moved from Wandsworth on Saturday night in preparation for his release.

Cooke was part of a sex gang which raped and strangled Jason. He admits he may reoffend and has agreed to be electronically tagged.

Probation Office spokesman Harry Fletcher said he was due to be moved to secure accommodation outside London later this week.

The silent protest aims to highlight demands for new laws to prevent paedophiles like Cooke from being released.

The BBC's political correspondent Lance Price reports on Jack Straw's plans (1'00")
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, says the government is examining measures to enable sex-offenders to be locked up indefinitely.

He has commissioned a study by officials from the Home Office and Department of Health into whether there is a need for further provisions to deal with "dangerous personality disordered offenders" such as paedophiles.

Any changes could be announced as part of a new Criminal Justice Bill in the Queen's Speech this autumn, the Home Office said.

The government was considering whether the courts should have the powers to confine offenders who have served their sentence, yet still pose a clear threat to the community.

[ image: Kate Lowes: worried about Cooke re-offending]
Kate Lowes: worried about Cooke re-offending
Kate Lowes, who runs the group Stop Paedophiles Exploiting and Abusing Kids (Speak), said: "Surely the time has come when the inadequate laws governing this group are tempered to common sense. By releasing this evil monster, the government are playing roulette with another child's life.

"The children that were murdered will never walk free and realise their potential - their families serve a life sentence with no chance of an appeal or reprieve. Why should Cooke get any less?"

[ image: He has agreed to wear a tag like this]
He has agreed to wear a tag like this
Cooke is one of a number of sex offenders who fall through a loophole in the law, and has the right to be released without supervision, even though probation officers consider him "dangerous and predatory".

As well as the Wandsworth protest, groups around the country are lighting candles in memory of "Orchid's children" - up to 20 youngsters thought to have been abused and killed during the early 1980s by a paedophile gang which included Cooke and Robert Oliver, who was released last September.

Operation Orchid was the name of a police investigation into the gang.

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