Manhunt fury: Why were we kept in the dark over murderer?
Found in London... but community tells of day of fear after killer absconds from secure unit, then hands himself in to police
THE killer who absconded from a secure unit in Llanfairfechan and sparked a 24-hour nationwide manhunt handed himself in.
Police forces around the UK were on alert to find Richard Dennick - who had been living in the Bryn y Neuadd unit until he failed to return there on Tuesday.
He is understood to have gone out from the unit on his own at around 11.30am on Monday, and when he did not return at 12.30pm the alarm was raised.
In the initial hours after his disappearance a helicopter was scrambled and police officers equipped with dogs scoured the surrounding area.
Police publicly revealed on Tuesday afternoon that the man they were hunting was a murderer who brutally slaughtered a Llanberis priest in 1982, but the admission came more than 24 hours after he went missing.
Prior to that, officers leading the massive manhunt had only stated that the man who was living at Bryn y Neuadd under the name of Richard Bracken was someone for whose safety they were concerned.
It emerged at 6.30pm on Tuesday night that Dennick - who was branded ‘evil’ by the judge who jailed him in 1983 - had been apprehended by police in London, more than 260 miles from the Llanfairfechan unit in which he’d been staying.
Dennick, 48, handed himself in to officers. No information has been released as to where he he was found, or where he is currently being detained.
Yesterday (Wednesday), both the Betsi Cadwaladr health board and North Wales Police were facing questions as to why Dennick was allowed out of the unit unsupervised, and why it took police so long to issue a warning that he may pose a risk to the public.
A Betsi Cadwaladr spokesman said on Tuesday night: ““Any decision to allow community leave is only taken after a full risk assessment by medical staff and with the consent of Ministry of Justice officials under delegated authority.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We recognise that community leave can and does play an important part in a patient’s treatment. However, officials will give permission for community leave only after a robust risk assessment, including reviewing the patient’s offending history and progress and ensuring that the clinician recommending leave has comprehensively addressed all known risks.
“If leave would expose communities or known victims to risk, permission will be denied.
“Officials will grant permission for unescorted leave only once the patient has completed a period of escorted leave without major concern or incident.”
Speaking before Dennick was found, North Wales Police Detective Superintendent Mark Pierce, who lead the search, said: “It is becoming increasingly urgent for us to find Richard Bracken, a convicted murderer, who without his normal medication is at risk of becoming more unpredictable.
“Without access to medication and health care support, Richard Bracken is believed to pose a potential risk to himself and others. Our intention is to alert people to the situation and not to cause undue alarm.”
Dennick was jailed for life in 1983 for the murder of Canon Jones.
The 64-year-old clergyman allowed youngsters into his home to meet and play snooker. Dennick, who was 15 at the time and was staying with an aunt in Llanberis, went to the house to play snooker and rob the cleric for money to run away to London.
He had only met the vicar the day before he killed him, and he and a friend attacked him with a broken billiard cue, a heavy metal ornament and a knife. Dennick struck him with such violence that the ornament was twisted out of shape. He then stabbed the vicar in the head, collarbone, arm and heart.
Arrested later, he claimed the cleric had made suggestive comments and he wanted revenge. The judge, Mr Justice Mars-Jones, described Dennick as “evil”.
Dennick escaped from Lewes prison in Sussex in September 1989, and was on the run for six months. He was later “found” in Wormwood Scrubs under the false name of Jason Ward.
It is understood he was then sent back to a Category A prison to serve out the rest of his life sentence, but was said to have become more and more withdrawn and was later taken to a secure hospital for treatment.
How long Dennick has been at Bryn y Neuadd is unclear, but it is known that he made regular trips into the village and local shops.
But nothing of his assumed identity was known, let alone the details of his murderous past.
Carol Griffiths, who works at the Spar in Llanfairfechan, said before news of Dennick’s true identity broke: “I know him from coming into the shop, I’ve served him a few times and he’s always very friendly.”
She added: “I’m not worried he is missing from the secure unit, I’m more concerned about his welfare.
“You get to know customers when they come in, and he seems OK. It hasn’t made me feel less safe walking to work at seven in the morning like I usually do.”
‘Unpredictable’: Richard Dennick, 48, who murdered a canon in 1982, sparked a huge search after absconding from a secure unit in Llanfairfechan