June 2019

Jail term extended for killer John Clifford who went on run

A convicted child killer who went on the run in the Republic of Ireland last September has been sentenced to six months.

Belfast Crown Court Judge David McFarland told John Clifford (57) his sentence would run consecutively to his current one, as to do otherwise “there would be no real punishment”.

He added that prisoners who abscond “must realise they run a real risk” of further jail time.

The judge said while the degree of planning involved was “spontaneous”, and the period at large was a week, it was still a serious offence given the concerns and tensions it could raise not only to the family of his victim, but also the community.

It could also impact, added Judge McFarland, on other prisoners seeking to attend medical or other appointments, because of an overzealous approach being taken by the prison authorities, for which they could not be criticised, on granting release for such appointments

Clifford was jailed in January 1989 for the rape and murder of his niece Sue Ellen (8) a year earlier.

Prosecution lawyer Simon Jenkins said Clifford was released from Burren House on the Crumlin Road on September 2 last year for an appointment which he never kept.

Instead, he was captured on CCTV boarding a train to Dublin and police were alerted.

However, within the following week he contacted the Garda in Wicklow and voluntarily agreed to return to Northern Ireland, where he was arrested in Newry by PSNI.

April 2019

Child killer John Clifford also abused three-year-old boy

A 57-year-old man serving a life sentence for raping and then murdering his 8-year-old niece has been handed another jail term after he admitted sexually abusing a young boy.

John Clifford was jailed in 1989 for abducting his eight-year old niece Sue-Ellen before raping and murdering her and dumping her body on a railway line.

He has now been given a further five-year sentence at Belfast Crown Court for offences committed against the boy

Sue-Ellen Clifford was taken from her north Belfast home by her uncle who sexually assaulted and strangled her before dumping the youngster’s body on a disused railway line.

Clifford was sentenced for the murder and released in 2005, but was sent back to prison for breaching his probation.

He then went on the run last September – which sparked a cross-border manhunt – after attending an appointment but not returning to custody.

Relatives of Sue-Elle called him “scum” after sentence was passed.

“Look at what you have taken away from us. Look at us. Life should mean life. They should lock you up and throw away the key,” was shouted from the public gallery.

Prior to this, the court heard Clifford, whose address was given as “no fixed abode”, confessed to sexually abusing the boy over a two-year period from 1984 to 1986, when he was aged between three and four.

A prosecutor said the killer would sit the child on his knee, they would watch a video of a train journey and that every time the train went under a bridge, the boy would be forced to perform a sex act on him.

The prosecutor said: “This went on for two years, each time it happened it was the same, including the video.”

Clifford initially denied abusing the boy in the south east Antrim area, and a trial commenced last month.

However, after the hearing was opened and before any evidence was presented, Clifford changed his plea and admitted three charges of indecent assault.

In his sentencing remarks, the judge pointed out that had these offences been committed after a change in legislation, Clifford would have been charged with rape and not sexual assault.

Clifford’s conviction for murdering his niece was mentioned during today’s sentencing.

The prosecutor told the judge a post mortem revealed she had been sexually assaulted, and that Clifford has since admitted this.

A barrister acting on the killer’s behalf said the man before the court today was “not the same man” – he was in the 80s, adding: “He has asked me to apologise profusely for his behaviour to the injured party in this case.”

Pointing out that Clifford’s change of plea spared his victim from giving evidence at a trial, the barrister said his client was “working hard on his rehabilitation” but said his future was “uncertain”.

The judge said Clifford’s offending against the young boy was “sinister”, and noted there were “certain sexual aspects” regarding his niece’s murder, which occurred two years after he abused the boy.

He also told Clifford “the offending by you… has had a significant impact on the child, who is now a man”, adding his victim had subsequently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition to the five-year sentence, Clifford was told he will be both on the Sex Offenders Register, and subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, for life.

February 2019

Child killer John Clifford admits sexual abuse of young boy

A convicted child killer from Northern Ireland currently serving a sentence for raping and murdering his 8-year-old niece was back in court on Tuesday when he confessed to sexually abusing a young boy.

John Clifford, whose address was given as ‘no fixed abode’, admitted indecently assaulting the boy in the mid 1980s.

He initially denied the offences and the trial was opened, but a barrister acting for Clifford asked that his client be re-arraigned.

The 56-year-old then entered ‘guilty’ pleas to the sex offences, which occurred in the south east Antrim area between 1984 and 1986.

The offences against the young boy took place before Clifford was jailed in 1989 for the rape and murder of his eight-year old niece.

Sue-Ellen Clifford was taken from her north Belfast home by her uncle who sexually assaulted and strangled her before dumping the youngster’s body on a disused railway line.

Clifford was sentenced for the murder and released in 2005, but was sent back to prison for breaching his probation.

He then went on the run last September – which sparked a cross-border manhunt – after attending an appointment but not returning to custody.

At the time, Clifford was in a satellite unit of Maghaberry in Belfast which houses inmates nearing the end of their sentence. Following a week on the run, Clifford was arrested in Newry and returned to custody.

He was back in court this week where a jury at Belfast Crown Court was sworn to preside over the hearing.

The eight women and four men on the jury were not told of Clifford’s past, and heard the Crown’s case against Clifford regarding the charges against the boy.

The Crown said Clifford targeted the boy and abused him whilst the pair watched videos featuring train journeys, telling the youngster it was a game.

The jury was told that despite the abuse occurred in the mid 80s, the complainant only went to the police “more recently”.

When Clifford was interviewed about the allegations, he initially denied the claims and said he had done nothing untoward to the boy.

After Clifford change his plea and admitted the offences, the foreperson of the jury was told by Judge David McFarland to return ‘guilty by confession’ verdicts.

Judge McFarland ordered a Victim Impact Report be compiled ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place on April 10, and Clifford was then remanded back into custody.

September 2018

Convicted child killer is unlawfully at large

Convicted child killer John Clifford, who murdered his young niece, is unlawfully at large after failing to return to Maghaberry Prison.

The 56-year-old, who uses a mobility scooter, was on day release to attend an appointment – but failed to return on Sunday evening.

PoliceClifford was out on day release from Burren House, Crumlin Road, Belfast, a satellite of Maghaberry Prison.

Prison officers are working to track Clifford down, while the circumstances surrounding his how he managed to abscond are also being investigated.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said: “At this time, we are focused on returning him to custody and would ask anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately.”

Clifford is described as being around 5ft 7ins tall and of medium build, with a fresh complexion, green eyes and fair hair.

When last seen, he was wearing a black beanie- style hat, a heavy black coat, grey trousers and black dress shoes.

He uses a distinctive three-wheel mobility scooter with the registration EXZ 4974.

PSNI Inspector Paul Noble said: “Anyone with information about his whereabouts should contact us immediately on 101.”

Clifford was jailed for life in 1989 for murder and a string of other offences, including indecent assault and cruelty to children.

He was originally jailed in 1989 for murdering his niece Sue Ellen – who he raped and strangled while she was just 8.

The monster left her for dead on a a deserted railway line in 1988.

He was released in 2005, but returned to prison two years later for breaching the terms of his probation.