Fugitive stole crash man's identity

Simon Hennessey. Photo:

A convicted killer from Plymouth who escaped from prison in Gloucestershire and was caught in Australia after 15 years on the run evaded capture for so long by stealing a brain-damaged man's identity, it has been revealed.

Convicted killer Simon Hennessey, 49, mutilated his 72-year-old aunt, Mary Webber, in a frenzied attack in 1978, stabbing her 70 times at her home in Alma Road, Plymouth.

Police outside Mary Webber's home in Alma Road, Plymouth in 1978. Credit: ITV News archive

Hennessey, then aged 14, later admitted her murder on the grounds of mental illness and was jailed for life in the same year.

But after serving 20 years he walked out of Leyhill open prison in December 1998 and effectively disappeared.

Hennessey escaped from Leyhill Open Prison in Gloucestershire in December 1998. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Efforts to hunt him down are largely believed to have focused on Europe until police in Queensland, Australia, arrested him in April.

Now it has emerged Hennessey lived a double life for years, taking the identity of a man from Hastings, New Zealand.

He was caught using the name Robert Eric Jeffery when first arrested at an address in Tewantin on the popular Queensland Sunshine Coast.

Hennessey was arrested in the seaside suburb of Tewantin, north of Brisbane, on Australia's Gold Coast.

News that fugitive Hennessey had finally been caught in Australia broke last month after his real identity was revealed.

Hennessey has been charged with fraud understood to be linked to a sophisticated credit card scam running to tens of thousands of Australian dollars.

New Zealand's Hawke's Bay Today ran the Hennessey story as its front page on Monday, with the headline: "Killer steals identity."

Inside a strongly worded opinion piece begins: "The Department of Internal Affairs has some explaining to do."

It adds: "It is not good that an English criminal can steal the identity of a brain-damaged Hastings man and for our Government to reward him with the man's New Zealand passport."

Robert Jeffery, 44, was in a head-on collision with a vehicle in 2005 and thrown from the flat-bed truck he was driving.

He has been in permanent care ever since and struggles to retain information. He has never held a passport.

"Three months ago, Don Jeffery, Robert's father, received a call from the Department of Internal Affairs to say someone had been taken into custody on the Sunshine Coast with a passport in Robert's name," the newspaper reports.

He told it: "I had heard of this happening but it's shocking when it happens to someone so close."

He goes on to say that he does not recognise Hennessey's photograph and has no idea how he could have stolen his son's details.

"We don't know whether it was a chance encounter or whether he targeted Rob."

He added: "He seems to have been using Rob's identity to evade the law, not to rip Rob off. That was obviously our main concern, making sure Rob is protected.

"We're not sure if this guy got his details before the car accident or afterwards when they knew what had happened."

The newspaper also reports that after Hennessey's prison escape in 1998 he is believed to have used the name Neil Docking to enter New Zealand.

It states that police in the country have confirmed electronic items linked to Hennessey have been seized from a house in Hastings.

Hennessey remains in custody in Australia after his last appearance before Maroochydore Magistrates' Court on June 17.

Avon and Somerset Police have previously confirmed they have already contacted the authorities in Australia with a view to extradite Hennessey back to Britain.