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1979: Disgraced ex-MP released from jail

John Stonehouse, the former government minister who faked his own death, has been freed from prison.

Mr Stonehouse was led out of jail an hour before other prisoners due for release on Tuesday morning.

He was allowed to leave earlier on health grounds as he is still recovering from open heart surgery and has had three heart attacks during his time in prison.

Mr Stonehouse was released on bail after serving three years of a seven-year term for theft, fraud and deception.

The charges related to a string of failed fraudulent businesses set up by the ex-Walsall MP before his disappearance in 1974.

He stood trial in 1976 after being arrested in Australia.

No family reunion

Last year his first application for parole was turned down.

Several suitcases and boxes containing Mr Stonehouse's personal possessions and documents were loaded into a car which arrived to collect him at dawn.

But there was no family reunion outside the prison gates.

Both his mother and his former secretary, Sheila Buckley, who was with him when he was arrested in Australia, stayed away.

Mr Stonehouse sprinted towards the waiting car with his head covered by a jacket and hid from photographers by laying down on the back seat.

It is believed Mr Stonehouse plans to write a book about his experiences.

In Context
The John Stonehouse case captured the public imagination because it mirrored a popular 70s television character, Reginald Perrin, who also faked his own death.

As well as leaving behind a pile of clothes on a Miami beach to fake his drowning, John Stonehouse also left behind a wife and a daughter.

He re-emerged in Melbourne, Australia with a new identity and his former secretary, Sheila Buckley.

He was captured by Australian police on Christmas eve 1974.

They wrongly believed they had caught the missing Lord Lucan who was wanted in England for murder.

John Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley married in 1981. He died in 1988 aged 62.

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