RAF Lakenheath, England — People across eastern England, including thousands of U.S. airmen stationed in the region, are being asked to watch out for a convicted murderer who escaped from his escorts while on a day trip from a Suffolk prison earlier this month.

Mark Ryder was shopping at the Debenham’s department store in Cambridge when he escaped from Highpoint Prison minders. He was 12 years into a 15-year sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend’s former lover.

The news of Ryder’s escape, and that convicted murderers are allowed on so-called day trips, has prompted concern across the U.K.

“This place is absolutely nuts,” said Tina Agnew, who works at the lodging office on RAF Lakenheath. “It’s hard to believe that they would do something like that.”

Neither the Home Office, which handles domestic matters in Britain, the Cambridgeshire Constabulary nor the Highpoint Prison alerted the public after Ryder absconded during the Oct. 12 shopping trip.

Instead, the Suffolk Constabulary, which polices the county in which the prison is located, issued a press release about the escape. However, it declined to comment on Ryder’s day trip and subsequent escape.

“It’s not really for us to make an opinion on the prison service’s decision to release prisoners on day trips,” said Suffolk Constabulary spokeswoman Lisa Miller.

The Home Office, which is handing all inquiries on the escape, refused to explain why Ryder was allowed an escorted pass outside the prison. Nor would it say how many other convicts are released on similar trips nationwide or if other escapes had occurred during day visits.

Instead, a spokeswoman supplied Stars and Stripes with a prepared explanation of why prisoners are granted outings. In Ryder’s case, it included a shopping trip to one of England’s most popular retail outlets.

According to the statement, the purpose of an escorted absence is “to enable prisoners to familiarize themselves with aspects of community life after a long period in custody.”

Now it appears authorities are less concerned with Ryder’s familiarization with the community then with his rapid return to incarceration. “He’s still at large and is a high priority,” Miller said.

Samantha McGuigan, whose parents are stationed at Lakenheath, said the outing for a convicted murderer undermines England’s criminal justice system.

“It kind of makes you doubt the whole system if it’s endangering the rest of us to let them out,” she said.

Be on the lookout

Description of escaped prisoner Mark Ryder:

37-year-old white man5 foot, 5 inches tallBrown hair, baldingTattoo of a cross on his foreheadLast seen wearing a light blue long-sleaved Lonsdale sweatshirt, blue jeans and white sneakers.— Suffolk Constabulary

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