February 2019

Child killer John Clifford admits sexual abuse of young boy

A convicted child killer from Northern Ireland currently serving a sentence for raping and murdering his 8-year-old niece was back in court on Tuesday when he confessed to sexually abusing a young boy.

John Clifford, whose address was given as ‘no fixed abode’, admitted indecently assaulting the boy in the mid 1980s.

He initially denied the offences and the trial was opened, but a barrister acting for Clifford asked that his client be re-arraigned.

The 56-year-old then entered ‘guilty’ pleas to the sex offences, which occurred in the south east Antrim area between 1984 and 1986.

The offences against the young boy took place before Clifford was jailed in 1989 for the rape and murder of his eight-year old niece.

Sue-Ellen Clifford was taken from her north Belfast home by her uncle who sexually assaulted and strangled her before dumping the youngster’s body on a disused railway line.

Clifford was sentenced for the murder and released in 2005, but was sent back to prison for breaching his probation.

He then went on the run last September – which sparked a cross-border manhunt – after attending an appointment but not returning to custody.

At the time, Clifford was in a satellite unit of Maghaberry in Belfast which houses inmates nearing the end of their sentence. Following a week on the run, Clifford was arrested in Newry and returned to custody.

He was back in court this week where a jury at Belfast Crown Court was sworn to preside over the hearing.

The eight women and four men on the jury were not told of Clifford’s past, and heard the Crown’s case against Clifford regarding the charges against the boy.

The Crown said Clifford targeted the boy and abused him whilst the pair watched videos featuring train journeys, telling the youngster it was a game.

The jury was told that despite the abuse occurred in the mid 80s, the complainant only went to the police “more recently”.

When Clifford was interviewed about the allegations, he initially denied the claims and said he had done nothing untoward to the boy.

After Clifford change his plea and admitted the offences, the foreperson of the jury was told by Judge David McFarland to return ‘guilty by confession’ verdicts.

Judge McFarland ordered a Victim Impact Report be compiled ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place on April 10, and Clifford was then remanded back into custody.

September 2018

Convicted child killer is unlawfully at large

Convicted child killer John Clifford, who murdered his young niece, is unlawfully at large after failing to return to Maghaberry Prison.

The 56-year-old, who uses a mobility scooter, was on day release to attend an appointment – but failed to return on Sunday evening.

PoliceClifford was out on day release from Burren House, Crumlin Road, Belfast, a satellite of Maghaberry Prison.

Prison officers are working to track Clifford down, while the circumstances surrounding his how he managed to abscond are also being investigated.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said: “At this time, we are focused on returning him to custody and would ask anyone with information to contact the PSNI immediately.”

Clifford is described as being around 5ft 7ins tall and of medium build, with a fresh complexion, green eyes and fair hair.

When last seen, he was wearing a black beanie- style hat, a heavy black coat, grey trousers and black dress shoes.

He uses a distinctive three-wheel mobility scooter with the registration EXZ 4974.

PSNI Inspector Paul Noble said: “Anyone with information about his whereabouts should contact us immediately on 101.”

Clifford was jailed for life in 1989 for murder and a string of other offences, including indecent assault and cruelty to children.

He was originally jailed in 1989 for murdering his niece Sue Ellen – who he raped and strangled while she was just 8.

The monster left her for dead on a a deserted railway line in 1988.

He was released in 2005, but returned to prison two years later for breaching the terms of his probation.