Harry Roberts - right

Harry Roberts – right

Notorious police killer Harry Roberts is to be released from prison after serving more than 45 years of a life sentence.

Roberts, now 78, was jailed for life for the murder of three policemen in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, in 1966. His 30-year minimum tariff expired 18 years ago.

The parole board is understood to have approved his release, and he will be subject to close monitoring by police and the probation service.

DS Christopher Head, 30, DC David Wombwell, 25, and PC Geoffrey Fox, 41, were shot dead without warning while questioning three suspects in a van on 12 August 1966.

Steve White, head of the Police Federation, told the Sun: “This decision by the parole board is a slap in the face for the families of the three police officers he brutally murdered.”

And ex-Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens told the paper: “The impact of this terrible crime was horrendous. This is a case where life imprisonment should mean exactly that – life.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We do not comment on individuals. The release of life sentence prisoners is directed by the independent parole board once they are satisfied they can be safely managed in the community. Once released, they are subject to strict controls for as long as their risk requires them. If they fail to comply with these conditions they can be immediately returned to prison.

“Offenders managed through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements are monitored and supervised by probation, police and other agencies.”

In May, justice minister Chris Grayling announced plans to change the law so police or prison officer killers would face whole-life prison terms.

The current minimum term is 30 years before a convict can be considered for parole and under the amendment to the criminal justice and courts bill, a whole life sentence would not be mandatory.

Speaking at the time, Grayling said: “Police officers play a vital role in keeping communities safe. As has been tragically demonstrated in recent years, this role is a dangerous one that can lead to officers paying the ultimate price while serving their community. It is essential that police and prison officers feel the full weight of the state is behind them as they fulfil their crucial duties.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said that the decision was right in practice.

Mr Leech said: “I understand that many will point to the fact that this decision is wrong in principle, but for me it is exactly right in practice: the whole life tariff as we understand it today did not exist in 1966, this is a man who has served almost a quarter of a century, he may not have shown any humanity to his victims but that is not an excuse for us now not showing some degree of humanity to him.”

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