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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Prisoner absconds after lodging bail bond
Mr Marotta, right, is believed to be in Europe
Mr Marotta, right, is believed to be in Europe
An Italian criminal is believed to have lodged a 150,000 bail bond before fleeing a Northern Ireland prison.

Luigi Marotta is thought to have escaped to Europe when prison authorities in the province granted him leave to visit his sick son.

The 56-year-old vanished following a decision to allow him out of Magilligan Prison, County Londonderry, to travel to Birmingham.

Mr Marotta is believed to have been granted leave after lodging the surety with prison officials.

We would stress the circumstances of this case are virtually unprecedented

Northern Ireland Prisons Service

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Prisons Service confirmed that the Royal Ulster Constabulary had been informed.

"A prisoner has failed to return from a period of compassionate release and we have notified the RUC," he said.

Mr Marotta was jailed last year following a plot to defraud St Brendan's Irish Cream company in County Londonderry of 1.4m.

He is believed to be wanted by police across Europe for questioning about organised crime.

He was granted leave last Thursday after taking the Prison Service to the Northern Ireland High Court.

Mr Marotta claimed his human rights were being infringed by a parole ban.

'Absconding was obvious'

The Prison Service spokesman added: "In light of the court decision, we had little choice but to release him.

"But we would stress the circumstances of this case are virtually unprecedented."

Democratic Unionist Party security spokesman Ian Paisley Jr said he was shocked by the incident.

"I think it calls into question the whole issue of management of the Prison Service.

"He should never have been let out given the fact that the likelihood of him absconding to another jurisdiction was so obvious."

The disappearance emerged on the same day as the son of a murdered drug dealer released for his father's funeral also went on the run. Patrick Daly, 19, had been granted bail for the burial of his father, Paul Daly.

Mr Daly was gunned down in Belfast city centre last Friday in an attack security sources have linked to the IRA.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Murder victim's son on run
08 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Funeral for murder victim
05 May 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA may be linked to murder
04 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Man shot dead in Belfast
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