John Massey, convicted of murder in 1976
Published: 10 January, 2013
by DAN CARRIER
JOHN Massey, one of Britain’s longest-serving inmates, is set to plead not guilty to a charge of absconding from Pentonville prison.
Wearing a yellow-and-blue all-in-one jumpsuit and flanked by guards, he appeared on videolink from Frankland Prison in County Durham at Blackfriars Crown Court on Thursday.
Judge Peter Clarke asked Mr Massey to confirm his name and that he could hear what was happening in court. He then asked the accused if he had had enough time to speak to a barrister representing him. The 65-year-old replied he had not, leading to the case being adjourned.
It is unclear what line his defence will take but his barrister, Alison Morgan, told the New Journal last night (Wednesday): “John Massey has been in prison for nearly four decades. He has served his time. There are a number of penal issues regarding the events of last summer which will be revealed when the case is heard in court. His continued incarceration is unjust.”
Mr Massey was arrested in Kent last summer after allegedly breaking out of Pentonville prison in Caledonian Road.
At the time, his mother was gravely ill and had been calling out his name. Mr Massey had been refused exceptional leave to visit her after she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. May Massey died just months after his arrest.
It is alleged Mr Massey climbed out of a gymnasium window at the prison and clambered down a 40ft wall.
Mr Massey, from Kentish Town, was given a life sentence after his conviction for murder in the summer of 1976. Bouncer Charles Higgins was killed outside a pub in Clapton, east London, following a drunken fight which saw one of Mr Massey’s friends blinded.
Supporters of Mr Massey believe it is time he was released on parole with strict conditions.
His sister Jane says her brother can live with her at her home in Barnet.
Mr Massey was released under licence in 2007 but broke the terms of his parole as he stayed at his dying father’s bedside for three days. The family informed the prison authorities that was where he was – but he was still taken back to prison.
His sister said: “When he had his last parole hearing in January 2010 they said he was a risk to life and limb. But how can they say that when they let him out in 2007? What has changed?
“That is really sticking in his throat. He is no danger to anyone and he has served his time.”
Mr Massey has told the New Journal he is distraught at the circumstances of his current incarceration.
He said: “I find it hard to stomach that there are terror suspects out under licence who are clearly a greater danger to the public than I ever could be, yet I am being kept in prison. I have now spent 36 years behind bars.”