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Jail fugitives may be in Britain

TWO prisoners who escaped from custody while attending a removal are believed to have fled to Britain.

Security sources told the Herald that Travellers brothers John (25) and Patrick McDonagh (24) were last seen leaving Roscommon town after more than 60 men confronted their five-man prison escort and forced them to free the pair.

The two were attending the removal of their brother Martin (28), who killed himself in prison last weekend.

The two criminals were driven from the area in a UK-registered BMW, and gardai believe they may have now left the jurisdiction and are in Britain, where the pair have extensive family connections.

Gardai are liaising with the PSNI and British police in their hunt for the missing men, it is understood.

An internal Prison Service inquiry is underway into the circumstances of the incident, at Smyth's Funeral Home on Mart Road in Roscommon, at 2.15pm last Tuesday.

Part of the inquiry will focus on the timing of the brothers' visit to the funeral home, it is understood.

Today, prison sources disclosed that the local branch of the Prison Officers Association had raised its concerns about the timing of the escort with the authorities at Castlerea jail -- before they were given parole.

"The POA branch in Castlerea questioned the wisdom of allowing two prisoners with a history of violence out in the middle of what was a wake for their brother.

"It was suggested that an arrangement be made with the local undertaker to have them pay their last respects at a time when fewer people would have been present."

The Prison Service said that gardai were immediately notified following the incident, and that an internal probe was initiated.

hnews@herald.ie