Man hunt for Britain’s most prolific burglar: latest criminal goes AWOL from John Howard

Peter Kerrigan, 26

Peter Kerrigan, 26 - Credit: Archant

A man who robbed the equivalent of a home a day for four years has gone on the run, after giving security guards the slip whilst on escorted leave from the John Howard ‘secure centre’.

Police are hunting Peter Kerrigan, 26, who was jailed for eight years after admitting more than 1,400 break-ins when he was just 17, leading police to dub him one of ‘Britain’s most prolific burglars’.

Kerrigan, an Irish Traveller, was in the Narroway on Sunday when he absconded at around 4.45pm.

He was sentenced to six years at a secure unit in January 2010 after admitting a series of distraction burglaries across Hackney and London, during which he targeted vulnerable pensioners dressed as a police officer.

He commenced the spree just weeks after being released early from an eight year prison sentence imposed in 2005 for a string of previous burglary offences.

At the time Det Sgt Graeme Simpson said: “He is quite possibly one of, if not the, most prolific burglars in UK history - and he’s only 17.

“I have never dealt with anybody in my 22 years as a police officer who has admitted more offences.”

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Kerrigan is the latest in a string of over 200 criminals who have absconded whilst under the care of the John Howard secure psychiatric unit in Kenworthy Road, Homerton.

Child snatcher Shane Hart, 54, was with two escorts when he gave them the slip last October – the second time he had disappeared whist on escorted leave within the space of five years. He found by Hackney police two days later after a massive operation.

Samuel Lee who is serving time for raping a disabled woman, was described by police as “violent” and suffering a form of schizophrenia, absconded while on unsupervised leave last June.

And convicted killer, Lerone Boye was at large for over three months after escaping from the centre itself in Kenworthy Road, Homerton, last October.

He was finally found under a bed in Chigwell following another large scale police op, when he described his time AWOL as “the best three months of my life”.

Rapist Shane Smith escaped from the “secure unit” in 2012, and was only rearrested again six weeks later for allegedly trying to break into a car in Loughton.

A spokesman for the East London NHS Foundation Trust said: “As with any incident of this nature we will carry out a thorough review to identify lessons to be learnt and take any appropriate actions.

“Patients may be allowed periods of time outside the unit, as part of an individual’s rehabilitation and planned treatment programme. This only happens after a comprehensive risk assessment has taken place.

“This is reviewed prior to each episode of leave.”