A reward of £5,000 is being offered for information to track down a “very dangerous” convicted murderer from Yorkshire who went on the run after being released from prison.
North Yorkshire Police believe William Kerr, 53, travelled to London after breaching the terms of his licence by disappearing from approved premises in Hull.
Crimestoppers is now offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest of Kerr, who police said must return to prison “as a matter of urgency”.
Kerr was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court on June 26 1998 for murder, and released on licence on January 23 this year.
He was sentenced along with co-defendant Christopher Moody for the murder of 43-year-old Maureen Comfort, whose body was found in a cupboard in her flat in Leeds.
A Crimestoppers spokesman said: “Police have described Kerr as a very dangerous man and it is urgent that he is returned to prison after this breach of his licence.
“We understand that it might be someone that knows him personally who is aware of where he is, and for that reason, I would urge you to contact Crimestoppers, completely anonymously, safe in the knowledge nobody will ever know you spoke to us.
“Do the right thing and tell us where Kerr is.”
North Yorkshire Police has previously warned members of the public not to approach him but to call 999 if they spot him.
Officers believe Kerr, who also has links to the Humber and West Yorkshire areas, may attempt to book in to a hostel in London under a false name.
Appealing directly to Kerr, Detective Inspector Eamonn Clarke of North Yorkshire Police, said: “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.”
Last week, Mrs Comfort’s niece Senga Bailey, of Hunslet, Leeds, said Kerr should not have been let out without more precautions being taken.
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.”
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”.
According to court papers, Mrs Comfort was last seen alive on December 4 1995, and her body was found by relatives on January 8 1996. 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.
To qualify for the reward, anyone with information should contact Crimestoppers by phone on 0800 555 111 or online.