Child snatcher absconder was deemed so high risk he was accompanied by two escorts

Police have warned the public not to approach Shane Hart.

Police have warned the public not to approach Shane Hart. - Credit: Archant

A dangerous child snatcher who went on the run during a trip outside the secure psychiatric unit where he is being held was deemed so high risk he was with two escorts when he gave them the slip last week.

It was the second time Shane Hart had absconded from the John Howard Centre while on escorted leave in the past five years. He was found by Hackney police two days later – on Friday – after a massive operation.

The 54-year old - who is the subject of a hospital order following his conviction in 1994 for false imprisonment and taking a child without lawful authority - last vanished in 2009 after he was allowed to go to the loo alone at Stratford shopping centre.

Questions have been raised about the John Howard Centre, from which 200 people have absconded in the past decade, including a convicted murderer and convicted rapist in the past year alone.

But Dean Henderson, borough director for East London NHS Foundation Trust revealed he didn’t know the circumstances of the episode when quizzed on Monday night at a health scrutiny committee meeting at the town hall by Cllr Ben Hayhurst.

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Mr Henderson said: “I don’t know the exact circumstances of the absconsion or how or when they absconded, but the fact is they were deemed needing two escorts so that is a reflection of the fact they recognised there was some risk of absconsion that needed to be managed.

“Obviously the granting of leave is the final process in giving people greater responsibility in a process of ongoing rehabilitation, but you have to take considered risks for people to benefit from leave.”

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Cllr Hayhurst replied: “I fully understand that but some people might say that the fact they were escorted by two people, some might say that makes the situation worse. What were they doing? What happened?”

Mr Henderson was unable to answer the question and said he could report back to the committee next month with more details.

CID officers finally tracked Hart down in the early hours of Friday in Watford, Hertfordshire, two days after he absconded in Brooksby Walk, Homerton.

The centre, which specialises in prisoners with personality disorders, has been the subject of multiple investigations due to the number of escapes it has seen.

A convicted murderer and convicted rapist have also gone missing from the unit in the past year.

A spokeswoman for East London NHS Foundation Trust said they were pleased Mr Hart returned safely to the unit.

She added: Mr Hart’s leave was approved by the doctor and clinical team at the John Howard Centre.

“Staff alerted the police as soon as the incident happened to ensure his safe return to the centre.

“The John Howard Centre is a treatment and rehabilitation facility so patients are allowed periods of time outside the unit as part of their rehabilitation and planned treatment programme.

“This is to prepare them for eventual discharge home either to their own home or to supported accommodation.”

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