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Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 22 November 2007

John Massey was jailed in 1976 after he was convicted of killing a bouncer
Killer sparks chaos by returning for last hours of dad’s life

Dramatic police hunt for man recently released from jail as he joins family’s bedside vigil

FOR five hours of Thursday evening a swathe of Kentish Town was sealed off as police conducted one of the biggest manhunts the borough has seen for years.
But as helicopters quartered the terraced streets between Prince of Wales Road and Camden Town and armed police laid siege to a house in Castlehaven Road, John Massey, the 62-year-old man at the centre of the search, was taking a desperate gamble with his liberty to be with his family during the last hours of his father’s life.
More than 30 years ago, in what friends call a “moment of madness in drink”, Mr Massey killed a man.
And by joining the ­vigil at his father’s Royal Free Hospital deathbed last week, he breached the terms of the licence under which he was released from Parkhurst prison in June.
As he joined his mother May – herself seriously ill – and his large Kentish Town family, police launched a hunt for a man they called “a violent and dangerous offender”.
Twenty-four hours later, Mr Massey gave himself up to to unarmed constables in the Fiddlers Elbow pub on Prince of Wales Road.
Yesterday (Wednesday), as family and friends gathered for the funeral of his father Jack, 82, at St Pancras and Islington Crematorium, they paused to reflect on the battle they have fought for years to get John back to his Kentish Town home.
His sister Jane said: “He is in Pentonville today and has to miss the funeral. I spoke to the governor’s office this morning and he said that he couldn’t let him go. But this would never have happened if the parole hearing had allowed him to come home to Camden, where we need him.
“Instead, they put him in a bail hostel in Streatham, where he has to be back by 11pm. The first night he didn’t go back he was with us at the Royal Free when our Dad was taken in.
“John never left that ward for four days – none of us did. We ate there and slept there, taking catnaps around the bed. He didn’t leave until Dad died.”
Mr Massey found work within weeks of his release from prison after serving one of the longest life sentences of any British prisoner, and stuck to his conditions until tragedy struck his family.
In 1976 he was convicted of the murder of Charlie Higgins, a bouncer at an East End club, after a row in which he was seriously injured himself. His offence, which was his first, had no connection with Camden, and his family cannot understand why his licence does not allow him to live in Kentish Town.
Jane added: “We need him back, we want him back, now more than ever. The prison and probation service have not treated him fairly, and it is unfair on us. They keep moving the goalposts.”
Friend Stanley Rose said Massey was “strong-willed, but not in a nasty way”.
Mr Rose said: “He hasn’t always played the game 100 per cent, but he has been inside for 30 years and there is a lot he needs to get used to. But the prisons and probation service have made it really awkward.”
Mr Massey’s progress had been hampered by the fact that in 1994, after 18 years inside, he escaped from his prison officer escort while on a visit home, while he and his guards played pool in Lyndhurst Hall. He spent three years at large in Spain.
Mr Rose added: “That was 14 years ago. The problem is that it is on his record and when a governor or a probation officer looks at his record they are not prepared to take any risks. They ignore the human story.”
The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice confirmed that Mr Massey had been sought for breaching his licence last week.

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