Bristol

HMP Leyhill absconder jailed after fleeing to Australia

Robert Hennessey Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Robert Hennessey was detained aged 14 for the manslaughter of his aunt

A man who walked out of an open prison in South Gloucestershire almost two decades ago and fled to Australia has been sent back to jail.

Robert Hennessey, 51, absconded from HMP Leyhill in 1998, while serving a life sentence for the manslaughter of his aunt in Plymouth in 1978 aged 14.

Hennessey was found in Australia, deported and arrested when he landed at Heathrow Airport in January.

He pleaded guilty to evading lawful custody and was jailed for 16 months.

Det Con Stuart Brooks, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Robert Hennessey was arrested on suspicion of fraud offences in the Queensland area of Australia in 2013.

"With the assistance of Devon and Cornwall Police, the victim's family have been kept updated on Hennessey's deportation and subsequent court appearances in the UK."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Hennessey walked out of HMP Leyhill in 1998

Bristol Crown Court heard that Hennessey, who appeared via video link from HMP Exeter, had absconded from numerous prisons, community homes and treatment centres since being detained as a teenager.

In 1982, aged 19 and while "at large", he was jailed for three years for robbery while carrying a firearm, the court heard.

He was sent to a number of other facilities before absconding just four days after arriving at HMP Leyhill, a Category D men's prison, in 1998. He then fled to Australia.

During his time abroad, he was also able to travel to New Zealand and Thailand using false documentation.

'Voluntary deportation'

The court heard that Hennessey was arrested in the Queensland area in 2013 after carrying out a number of credit card scams totalling AUS $140,000.

He was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison and "consented to voluntary deportation".

Judge Neil Ford said Hennessey, who is still in life licence for his original crime, had an "extraordinary story" and "gave credit" for his guilty plea.

"[You were] at large for 16 years. During that time you used false documentation, including false passports, and travelled extensively," he added.

"When you are released is a matter for the parole board."

Defending Hennessey, William Painter said the defendant "still dwelled" on the manslaughter of his aunt, Mary Webber, and was "remorseful on a daily basis".

"Since [the age of 19] he has led a non-violent life for some 30 years," he added.

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