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FINUCANE KILLER FLEES NORTH AFTER RELEASE; Barrett is freed after less than 3yrs of life sentence.

Byline: By PAUL O'HARE and DAN McGINN

THE man convicted of Pat Finucane's murder fled the North hours after his release from jail, it emerged last night.

Ken Barrett was freed from Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, yesterday morning.

He was jailed for life in September 2004 for shooting solicitor Mr Finucane at his North Belfast home.

The murder was carried out by the UFF in February 1989.

Claims of security force collusion have resulted in the British Government announcing a public inquiry.

Barrett's solicitor Joe Rice last night said his client was relieved to be a free man, but added: "He does not see his future in Northern Ireland."

He was released early under the Good Friday Agreement after applying to the Sentence Review Commission.

Belfast-based solicitor Mr Rice said: "He wants to be allowed to get on with his life and be reunited with his family outside of Northern Ireland."

Mr Rice said he did not know where Barrett was and could only confirm he was no longer in the North.

After his conviction Barrett was held in a prison in England, where he had been living.

He was eligible for early release under the Agreement after being transferred to Ulster in February last year.

The UK's Government is currently searching for a judge to head the public inquiry into the killing, amid allegations of security force collusion.

Mr Finucane's family believe the decision to hold it under the controversial Inquiries Act will lead to a cover-up and enable the Government to control what can be disclosed. The family have said they will have nothing to do with the inquiry.

Barrett's decision to leave may have been influenced by the fate which befell former UDA man William Stobie.

Stobie, who admitted supplying the guns used in the killing but denied murder, walked free from court in November 2001 after the case against him collapsed - but two months later he was killed by loyalist gunmen.

Mr Finucane's eldest son Michael said although the timing of Barrett's release was "perhaps a little surprising, the event itself is not".

The Dublin-based solicitor added: "The real focus for my family is to succeed in our campaign to have a fully independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder as agreed by the two governments at Weston Park in 2001.

"This is what we must achieve and it is also what successive British Governments have refused to allow, including the present administration."

He said such a probe must be wholly independent and claimed there was no excuse for further delay.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said: "The case of Pat Finucane goes to the very heart of the British state policy of collusion with unionist paramilitaries. "That is why successive British Governments have sought to conceal the truth by continuing to stall the sort of investigation demanded by the Finucane family."

The SDLP's Alban Maginness added: "The failure of Downing Street to honour its commitment to a public independent inquiry must be challenged, exposed and overturned."

ulster@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

PRISON: Maghaberry, Co Antrim' IN HIDING: Ken Barrett' VICTIM: Pat Finucane
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 24, 2006
Words:519
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