Killer’s release date put back after drug find

Maghaberry Prison.
Maghaberry Prison.

A convicted killer who has served 18 years for murder has had his release date put back because prison staff caught him with drugs, a judge heard today (Monday).

A prosecuting lawyer told Lisburn Magistrates Court how 39-year-old Oliver Shortt was taken for a drugs test on 23 June last year and subjected to a “full bodily search” when prison staff at Maghaberry jail discovered a piece of tissue paper “between his buttocks”.

Staff told the killer to put the item in the bio waste bin and he was sent back to his cell but when it was examined later, guards found a Diazepam tablet along with 11 “non-opiate based, prescription only painkillers.”

Questioned about the matter Shortt said he “took full responsibility” for the drugs, claiming that a fellow prisoner whom he refused to name had come to his cell the night before and asked him to hold the drugs for him, later pleading guilty to possessing class C diazepam with intent to supply and possessing medicinal products, also with intent to supply.

Shortt, who appeared in court via videolink, has been in custody since he murdered Donna Murray and attempted to murder her son Christopher in the early hours of 13 October, 1998.

During his trial in March 2000, the jury heard how 35-year-old Ms Murray was beaten and strangled. Her body was discovered by the Fire Brigade after Shortt set fire to her home at Ardowen in Craigavon as he fled the scene and fortunately, they were able to rescue her son from an upstairs bedroom.

In 2004 the former Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr ordered Shortt to serve a minimum of 17 years of his life sentence and today (Monday) his defence barrister revealed that because of the drugs find, his pre-release scheme has been put back.

She added, however, that Shortt “intends to have the matter dealt with by the parole commissioners,” adding that as well as having his prospective release date put back, Shortt had also been punished by the withdrawal of some prison privileges.

District Judge Rosie Watters said she had “no alternative” but to impose an immediate prison sentence, imposing two months for possessing class C diazepam with intent and a £250 fine with an immediate warrant for the offence relating to the prescription painkiller.