March 18, 2022 12.06 pm

Lincolnshire prison absconder Paul Robson jailed after nationwide manhunt

Sex offender has been jailed for eight months

A sex offender branded a “menace to females” who sparked a nationwide manhunt after escaping from an open jail on a prison service bike was today (Friday) given an eight-month jail term.

Paul Robson, 56, spent four days on the run after fleeing from North Sea Camp open prison in Lincolnshire, leaving a makeshift dummy in his bed.

Robson was given a life sentence in 2000 after he sexually assaulted a woman at knifepoint and ordered to serve a minimum term of 18 years imprisonment which was endorsed by both the Lord Chief Justice and Home Secretary.

He was last seen at HMP North Sea Camp, a Category D open jail near Boston, Lincolnshire, at 11.59pm on Saturday, February 12.

His disappearance sparked a dedicated manhunt from Lincolnshire Police and drew criticism for the decision to allow his transfer to an open jail.

Robson was arrested around 25 miles away in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Skegness at about 9.30am on Thursday, February 17 after a call from a member of the public who recognised him.

There was a short chase on foot along the seafront and Robson was detained by six officers.

Robson this morning (Friday) appeared before Lincoln Crown Court charged with two offences of escaping from custody on February 13 and the theft of a prison service pedal cycle on the same date.

Wearing a grey prison service tracksuit, Robson appeared in the glass panelled dock with cropped hair and a goatee style beard, and a pair of glasses hanging from his top.

He spoke to confirm his name and pleaded guilty to the charge of escape.

The pedal cycle theft charge was left on the file after Robson entered a not guilty plea.

Robson was convicted in August 2000 of offences including indecent assault and attempted rape and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In late January 2022 he was moved from the prison where he was being held to HMP North Sea Camp.

As he had only just got there he was not entitled to leave the prison and was in COVID isolation.

On February 13 the police were contacted by North Sea Camp and informed that he had absconded.

He was last present at a 11.59pm roll call and had put items on his bed to give the impression he was still there.

Robson was also charged with the theft of HMP pedal cycle which was found abandoned in a farm building at Hurns End around six miles from the prison.

He was eventually arrested in Skegness following a report from a member of the public after his disappearance prompted Lincolnshire Police to mount a costly “critical incident.”

Stefan Fox, prosecuting, said Robson was a post-tariff life prisoner who was moved to North Sea Camp in January this year.

Mr Fox told the court Robson was noticed missing at 6.30am on February 13 and items had been left in his bed to mislead staff.

He escaped on a prison service bike which had been lent to another inmate and left outside a resettlement unit.

The bike was found abandoned in the barn at Hurns End where Robson spent his first night before walking to Skegness.

Mr Fox told the court no one had any idea of what Robson had done during the missing three days.

When Robson was finally captured in Skegness he told police he was “glad it was over.”

During police interview Robson said he never wanted to be moved to an open prison and though North Sea Camp was a mess.

Michael Cranmer-Brown, mitigating, said Robson would remain the subject of his life sentence and would be unable to be moved to an open prison for at least two years.

The court heard Robson had been in custody since 2000 and had spent much of his sentence at HMP Whatton where he had completed all the relevant sex offender courses and was use to a regime of artwork and meditation in his Buddhist faith.

Mr Cranmer-Brown said Robson did not want to be moved to an open jail but had no choice where he was moved by the prison service.

“The parole board were given three options,” Mr Cranmer-Brown added.

“Immediate release, that was never going to happen. Remaining in closed conditions or moving to an open prison.”

Once in North Sea Camp, Robson said he found himself sharing a cramped cell with another inmate who plays on his Xbox all day, and he was unable to meditate or do any art.

“He was advised to a do a jigsaw on his bed,” Mr Cranmer-Brown added.

Mr Cranmer-Brown said Robson did pass on his concerns, but on the night of his escape waited until his cell mate was asleep and climbed out of the window after leaving a makeshift dummy in his bed.

Mr Cranmer-Brown said Robson made his way to Skegness because he had been brought up in a seaside resort and did not commit any other offences.

The court heard Robson has no family, and has become institutionalised, but still one day hopes to be released.

Passing sentence Judge Simon Hirst told Robson his eight month jail term for the escape would run alongside his life sentence.

After Robson’s capture, Ch Supt Kate Anderson, from Lincolnshire Police, thanked members of the public who had shared the force’s appeals to find him and reported potential sightings.

“At this stage, we don’t believe he had any accomplices or believe that he’s committed further offences,” she said.

Officers had worked “tirelessly” in their search, she added.

Police had issued several appeals to locate Robson after he absconded.

Further images of him were released, with the force suggesting he may have changed his appearance.

After his capture it was understood Robson was returned to a closed prison and will not be eligible to apply for parole for at least a further two years.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said he would “face an uphill struggle proving he can ever be trusted to move to an open prison again”.

Robson, originally from Newcastle, was jailed at Oxford Crown Court for the attempted rape and indecent assault of his victim.

Coverage of prison absconder Paul Robson so far: