On-the-run Leeds murderer should not have been released, say victim’s family

Maureen Comfort
Maureen Comfort
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The ‘dangerous’ murderer who went on the run weeks after being released from prison on licence should not have been let out without more precautions being taken, according to the family of his victim.

William Kerr, who killed his friend Maureen Comfort with an accomplice in December 1995 and hid her body in a cupboard in her flat in Leeds, this week absconded from the Hull hostel where he had been staying.

William Kerr

William Kerr

Ms Comfort’s niece Senga Bailey, who attended Kerr’s probation hearing in October where a decision was made to release him in January, said today that she expected he would go on the run if he was released.

She said: “I was upset that he had got out, but I expected it, I knew it was not going to be long. It is just his nature. He is someone that can befriend people. I know there will be people out there that have seen him and spoken to him.

“He is very cunning. I am just frightened in case something happens to them, because that is what happened to Maureen.”

Mrs Bailey, of Hunslet, Leeds, added: “I got a phone call from the probation officer this week to say he was on the run. I went to the probation hearing in October last year, he was released in January.

12th July 2012. Senga Bailey pictured at home in Hunslet.

12th July 2012. Senga Bailey pictured at home in Hunslet.

“They told me to do an impact statement about how it affected the family and everyone else. I did that in front of the parole board and it came back that they were letting him out.

“I knew this was going to happen because I knew him as a person. I thought they had got it wrong, not just because of him killing Maureen but because of how he was.

“He was all over the place, London, Portsmouth, Scotland, he did it to abscond from the police. I knew he was going to disappear.”

Police say William Kerr, 53, who was given a life sentence in 1998 and has links to the Humberside, West Yorkshire and London areas, is “dangerous” and should not be approached.

Maureen Comfort.

Maureen Comfort.

The National Offender Management Service contacted North Yorkshire Police for assistance after Kerr absconded from “approved premises” in Hull. He is now believed to have travelled to London.

This is not the first time that Kerr has fled justice. According to court papers, the start date of his trial for murder had to be delayed when he broke his bail conditions and disappeared in 1996.

He also disappeared from Leeds on December 5, 1995, around the time of the murder, and “for no innocent reason, made himself conspicuously present in Orpington [in Kent] later that day”.

Kerr and his accomplice Christopher Moody knew Mrs Comfort, lodged with her at her flat in Cromwell Heights, Burmantofts, in November and December 1995, and had been given a key to the property.

Mrs Bailey, 54, said: “He escaped bail for six months before the trial but the police didn’t even notice that. They didn’t realise at the time that he had not signed in. He was found in London by railway police, that was how he was brought back for trial.”

According to court papers, Mrs Comfort was 43 at the time of her death and lived alone at a flat in Leeds.

The documents said: “She was known to frequent certain public houses in the City Centre and to have a number of male acquaintances including the applicant and his co-defendant William Kerr. She was last seen alive on 4 December 1995.

“On 8 January 1996 her relatives, who had not seen or heard from her for some time, went to her flat which was locked and secure. When they gained entry they discovered her body in a cupboard in the bedroom. She had been strangled.”

Mrs Bailey said the news that Kerr had absconded from his “approved premises” in Hull brought back the memories of the time her aunt was murdered.

She said: “It brings everything back. At the moment we have got to go and make arrangements to bury one of my granddaughters. It is a very bad time. It is a very difficult time for the family.

“I had to go and tell me brother and dad. My dad has dementia but remembers everything from that date. He is her brother-in-law. They are very sad and angry about it, that the probation service let him out.

“We knew he would be let out eventually but they are never going to do enough time for us because we are never going to get Maureen back.

“A lot more should have been done [to stop him absconding]. I know people have to go into hostels and have to be in for 10/11pm. Even if they had put a tag on him while he was out.

“A lot of these killers go into hostels and there is no way of tracking them. He should have had a tag while he was in the hostel. He might have cut it off but it could have prevented him from doing this.

“I am worried for other people because he is a desperate man now. Desperate people do desperate things. For him to do something to Maureen, being part of her family for nearly 30 years, what could he do to a stranger?

“People will be speaking to him. He will befriend them because that is the sort of person he is. I am frightened for other people’s safety. He can disappear so quickly. There has got to be someone out there who is helping him. Before the murder he was in and out of prison for burglaries, robberies and thefts.

“My mother, Maureen’s sister, is actually frightened because she went through it all at the time. She and my father and are old people now. They are very scared.”

A Probation Service spokeswoman declined to comment,

Two photographs of Kerr have been circulated to the press and published on social media.

Detective Inspector Eamonn Clarke, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “To assist our already extensive efforts to trace William Kerr, I am urging people to keep an eye out for the man in the photographs.

“We believe he is now in the London area and he may be trying to book into a hostel or other accommodation using a false name as he has done previously.

“We ask that you do not approach Kerr, as he is considered dangerous. You should contact the police straight away on 999 and officers will be dispatched to arrest him or investigate the sighting.”

Mr Clarke is also appealing directly to Kerr: “William, you know you have breached your licence conditions, and by continuing to do so you are only making things worse. It is now time to do the right thing and hand yourself in to the police.”

If you have seen William Kerr or have information about his current whereabouts, please dial 999 and pass details to North Yorkshire Police stating the “William Kerr appeal”.

If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, quoting North Yorkshire Police reference number 12150049525 and say it is “urgent”.