Adair freed from prison and flown to England

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Loyalist paramilitary Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair has been released from a Northern Ireland prison and flown to England by the British army.

The former UDA leader was taken from Maghaberry prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, to RAF Aldergrove and then flown by military helicopter to Manchester.

Former associates of Adair had vowed to kill him if he returned to his home in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. His wife Gina lives in Bolton where she is recovering from cancer.

The Northern Ireland prison service said in a statement: "Johnny Adair has been released from custody from HMP Maghaberry for a short period of temporary release prior to his final release on 13 January 2005. He will not be required to return to the prison."

There is no longer any legal authority to keep him in custody
Northern Ireland prison service statement

"He had not previously received any pre-release home leave since 1999 because advice from the PSNI was that Adair's continuing involvement with illegal activities was such that to have released him, even for a short period, would have posed an unacceptable risk to the community in Northern Ireland.

"He will not be on licence," the statement added.

"When he is finally discharged he will have served 2/3rds of his sentence and as such he is in the same position as any other prisoner who receives remission.

"There is no longer any legal authority to keep him in custody," the statement concluded.

The UDA, which imposed the death sentence on Adair because he allegedly ordered the murder of south-east Antrim UDA chief John Gregg two years ago, believes Adair will be unable to reform the Lower Shankill Road paramilitary base that sustained him in loyalist power for many years.

"There will be some individuals heavily involved in crime who might be prepared to support him but they are nothing but a network of scallywags. Johnny doesn't have a power base any more and I think he must have got that message by now," a senior loyalist told The Irish Timeslast week.

"And anyone who would want to support him would want to think long and hard because they know they would then be under serious threat."

Adair's wife and their four children moved to Bolton last year to avoid the Loyalist in-fighting in Belfast. She now lives in a rented house in the Horwich area of Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Their teenage son Jonathan, was jailed last year for conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine. He is due to be released later this year.

Chief Superintendent Dave Lea of Bolton police said: "We are aware that this individual has today been released from prison and arrived in the Manchester area. 

"Officers from Greater Manchester Police have met with him this morning and
spoken to him.

"We welcome anyone to Bolton or Greater Manchester if their intention is to lead a responsible law-abiding life. However should people engage in anti-social behaviour or choose not to abide by the law we will tackle them using all available legislation." 

"My officers will not allow people to break the law, no matter who they are. 

"We will not tolerate criminal behaviour from anyone and residents should rest assured that we will robustly tackle criminal activity taking place anywhere in the Bolton area.

"We are experienced in dealing with varying levels of criminality and as with
all police forces we have intelligence at our disposal to ensure we can
effectively protect our communities and bring criminals to justice."

(Additional reporting PA)