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Police guard person under direct threat from escaped prisoner
POLICE are protecting a person who is under direct threat from a violent prisoner who absconded while carrying out community work at a North- East visitor attraction, it was revealed last night.
Bernard Lee Sharkey was jailed in 2006 after being convicted of being part of a gang armed with a samurai sword and baseball bat which laid siege to a home in Middlesbrough, shouting death threats at the occupier.
He was serving his sentence at Kirklevington Prison and was carrying out community work at Newham Grange Farm, Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, on Thursday, when he absconded at about 12.30pm.
At a press conference at Stockton police station yesterday, police revealed he was picked up in a silver saloon car and was driven away instead of returning to Kirklevington, a resettlement prison near Yarm , Stockton.
Members of the public have been warned not to approach him, and police say it is most likely that Sharkey, 34, of Grangetown, Middlesbrough, is still in the Teesside area.
Acting Superintendent Rob Donaghy said Sharkey had no dealings with the public as part of his work at Newham Grange, a community farm popular with families, and said he had been thoroughly assessed by prison officers and was not regarded as a threat.
He said information that a particular person may be under serious threat only came to light after Sharkey absconded. No other details about the individual have been released. Supt Donaghy said: “I have a team of dedicated response officers working on this.
“Initially, he was designated as a low risk, but information has since come to light, through the prison service, that a known person was at risk.
“We don’t believe he poses a significant threat to the wider community. However, we are mindful of his convictions.
We say, please do not approach this individual if you see him, but dial 999.”
Supt Donaghy confirmed that Sharkey has a large number of previous convictions, mainly for theft and drugs offences, and had served a custodial sentence before. However his 2006 conviction for laying siege to a house in South Bank with two other men was the most serious.
At a trial at Teesside Crown Court, Sharkey was found guilty of threats to kill, affray and possession of an offensive weapon. He received an indeterminate sentence but was expected to serve seven years.
It is thought Sharkey had the baseball bat and another of the men was armed with the sword.
Supt Donaghy made a direct appeal to Sharkey. He said: “My message to Bernard is to hand yourself in. It’s not too late. It’s only a matter of time before we trace you, it is better for you to come to us, rather than us find you.”
Sharkey has links with the Grangetown area and also the Morpeth area in Northumberland .
He has cropped brown hair, a scar on the left hand side of his top lip and a Celtic band tattoo on his upper left arm.
Anyone with information is asked to call Cleveland Police on the 101 non-emergency number. Anyone who sees him is asked to call 999.