A CONVICTED killer was being hunted by police today after failing to return to the controversial Castle Huntly open prison.
Police were still trying to trace Samuel Stewart, 47, who was sentenced to almost five and half years in prison after being convicted of assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2009.
Despite a list of previous convictions including culpable homicide and violent assault, Stewart was moved to Castle Huntly near Dundee in January – less than two years into his sentence.
A manhunt was launched to find Stewart after he failed to return to the jail following a period of “leave”, during which he is believed to have returned to his home in Edinburgh
The alarm was raised yesterday after there was still no sign of Stewart, who was scheduled to return on Wednesday.
A Tayside Police spokesman appealed for anyone with information to come forward. He said: “As well as having friends in the Edinburgh area he has also travelled to London in the past.”
Stewart is around 5ft 8in, of medium build, and has brown hair and green eyes. He also has tattoos on both arms, including designs featuring the word “mother”, a panther and an eagle.
He is the latest prisoner to abscond from Castle Huntly, and politicians have called for a full review of the case, with one claiming it was “shocking” that someone with his record was considered suitable for an open prison at all.
In 2004 Stewart was jailed for six years after he slashed a man across the face at an Edinburgh benefits office. His victim required 44 stitches.
In 1995 he was jailed for six years for culpable homicide after he and another man were found guilty of killing brothers Paul and Scott Maguire. Stewart was convicted of killing Scott, who died from a knife wound to the throat.
Following the news of his disappearance, Conservative Lothians MSP Gavin Brown said: “I find it truly shocking that someone who has committed these types of criminal offence over a period of time can be considered appropriate to admit to an open prison.
“The government has to review this case as a matter of urgency.”
Stewart is just one of many in a long list of criminals to have escaped the controversial prison over the past ten years.
In December last year, Ian McDonald, 28, left the open prison despite only being there for less than a week.
McDonald, who was only a third of the way through his four-year sentence for assault with a knife, claimed that he’d left because alcohol and drugs were “too freely available” at the prison.
In May 2010, double killer Daniel Adam, 52, failed to return to the open prison after a home visit, and explained he was unable to go back to the prison because he was “steaming drunk”.
Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont said: “The real scandal is the automatic early release policy, which means dangerous criminals are let out of jail after having served less than half their sentence, or in this case are sent to open prisons to prepare for that release.
“This is just the latest in a series of incidents that have let dangerous people go on the run, and it must serve as a wake-up call to the SNP government.”