Killer doctor freed from jail

FREED: Hassan Shatanawi
FREED: Hassan Shatanawi

A KILLER doctor has been released from prison just weeks after a parole experts warned he was too dangerous to be set free, it has been revealed.

Jordanian-born Hassan Shatanawi, who murdered his Hartlepool wife, has been allowed to return to his home country with no supervision or control.

Shatanawi, now 67, was given a life-sentence in 1994 for murdering Laura May after tiny traces of her blood and hair were found in an allotment shed he had tried to destroy.

Although her body has still to be discovered, jurors found Shatanawi guilty after a five-week trial and he was given a minimum term of 16 years.

He has now been released from prison and taken to an airport where he boarded a plane to the Middle East without the knowledge of his victim’s family.

The Home Office have admitted they no longer know the whereabouts of the murderer and have said it is possible he could slip back into the country.

News of his release sparked anger among the relatives of Shatanawi’s victim.

Her brother, Don Vaughan, of Hartlepool, said his family was “appalled and disgusted” at learning the murderer had been freed from his life sentence without warning.

They had hoped Shatanawi, a trained doctor in his home country, would be imprisoned until he revealed what had happened to Laura May, who died aged 36.

Don, 53, said: “We always knew the day would come when he might be released, but we hoped, and have done for nearly 20 years, to find out the truth.

“This nightmare is impossible to lay to rest when we can’t lay to rest my sister. She’s out there somewhere and only one person knows. Now he’s free, we’ll never find out.”

The family was told that Shatanawi had his third parole application turned down because he was still deemed a danger.

Yet within three months he had been released.

Just weeks after the application was refused the Government changed the rules and Home Secretary Teresa May was given the power to override Parole Board recommendations.

Ministers have since apologised to Laura May’s family and admitted that they should have been told about the murderer’s release earlier.

Don, a dad-of-two who cares for his elderly father, said police received a memo telling them of Shatanawi being freed after he had been taken from jail.

Officers were initially unable to trace any of the family but found a relative through a victim liaison officer who works for the Probation Service.

He said that he spent the day bewildered by the news as he had been told just weeks earlier that the killer would stay behind bars.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said in a statement: “We have apologised to the family and acknowledged they should have been informed earlier.

“The local Probation Trust informed the family as soon as they became aware of the deportation and a police and probation meeting was held with the family to discuss their concerns.

“The Government believes that foreign national offenders who have no right to remain in the UK should be deported at the earliest opportunity.

“New powers mean foreign prisoners serving indeterminate sentences can be considered for removal as soon as they have completed the compulsory part of their sentence.”

Don, who was speaking on behalf of the family, said: “The police got an email telling them that he had been released. But that was after the horse had bolted.

“The officer who came to see us was as shocked as we were. He told us ‘this sort of thing just doesn’t happen’. In all the years he has served, this was a first.”

Don said: “I have never believed in the death penalty, but I firmly believe in a ‘life’ sentence. I think if you take a life, you should spend a life in jail.

“My sister is still out there somewhere and somebody knows about it. We all want to know where she is. The only key to this is that man and now he has gone.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “He would have been escorted throughout the deportation process, and would have been met by Jordanian authorities at passport control.

“After that, the UK haven’t further involvement in the case. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are notified, but we have no more involvement.”

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “We are absolutely determined that any foreign national who fails to abide by our laws should face the consequences.

“We deported this individual as soon as he had completed his sentence. In 2011, we deported more than 4,600 foreign criminals.”

See Wednesday’s Mail for more reaction.