No-show: Shane Todd. *Photo supplied
No-show: Shane Todd. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, JULY 6: A prisoner who has been on the run for a week is a convicted sex offender with a history of serious and violent crime.

Shane Todd, who failed to return to the Prison Farm in St George’s after being allowed out on work release, was in 2005 convicted of attacks involving five women.

He was still on the run last night — and police released a statement saying they had received calls about a number of sightings. Police warned islanders not to approach him but to call police immediately.

In June 2004, machete-wielding Todd sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl while she tried to protect her disabled aunt after he broke into their Paget home. An hour later he threw a 61-year-old woman down the stairs of her Warwick home and ended up in a violent struggle with two of her elderly friends before leading police on a high-speed chase.

The Royal Gazette reported at the time that Todd was jailed for 15 years, with Chief Justice Richard Ground ordering him to undergo treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.

But it seems clear that, seven years after he was jailed, prison authorities see Todd as changed man.

Prisons Commissioner Edward Lamb told us on Tuesday: “We are currently working with police and his family to locate him and return him to our custody. I hasten to add that he is deemed to be low risk to the public, hence his being eligible for our work release programme in the first instance.”

Lt Col. Lamb added: “I am confident that he will soon be returned to custody.”

On Wednesday, the Bermuda Sun broke the news that Todd had absconded last Friday while on the unescorted work programme and at the time, our understanding was that his convictions were primarily drug-related. Later on Wednesday, police issued a statement appealing for the public’s help in tracing him.

Todd’s 15-year stretch was due to end in 2015, with a planned release back into the community, which included his work release programme at Almeida Farm in St George’s.

When he spoke to us on Tuesday, Col. Lamb stressed that security had not been breached as Todd had absconded while on a recognised programme outside the prison.

Prison Officers’ Association chief Craig Clarke backed Col. Lamb and said the work release programme, in line with many other countries, including the UK, was recognised as vital in rehabilitating offenders and preparing them for a life outside.

Mr Clarke added that eligibility for an unescorted work release programme depended on a low risk classification and a decision was only taken after careful consideration.

He said: “Absconding is something which happens from time to time. It doesn’t happen often, because when you get that you’re literally on your way out the door.”

Farm labour

Mr Clarke added: “We do hope he will do the right thing and turn himself in.”

Paul Almeida, who owns Almeida Farm in St George’s, where Todd had been a farm labourer for around six months, said: “He seemed to be a nice guy and didn’t look like he was anything to worry about.

“We told him what to do and he did it.”

Mr Alemeida said he was aware of some of Todd’s background, but added: “I told him if he didn’t disrespect me or my workers, he could come back every day.”

Todd’s 2004 crimes make grim reading. According to an October, 2005 court report by Elizabeth Roberts of The Royal Gazette, Todd had a scarf over his face when he hit a 17-year-old girl and pressed a machete against her face. He also grabbed the girl’s aunt and gagged her.

Sexual assault

The Gazette reported that he also sexually assaulted the girl – “an assault that only stopped when she lied to him that she had a sexually-transmitted disease”.

The pair managed to escape, but Todd had fled the scene before police arrived.

Just an hour later, the Gazette reported, drug addict Todd struck at a Warwick house, tricking his way in by asking if he could call a taxi.

He pulled a machete and grabbed the 61-year-old woman owner of the house in a headlock. Two Danish woman visitors, both in their 70s, tried to help their friend as Todd swung the machete at them.

The 61-year-old was hurled down a flight of stairs during the struggle, breaking her back, while one of her friends had her hand slashed.

The Gazette reported that Todd escaped in the owner’s car and took police on a high-speed chase, which ended in Hamilton Parish after he had collided with another car and smashed into a wall. He had stolen the 61-one-year old woman’s handbag and contents, worth more than $2,500.

The Royal Gazette reported that Todd, who pleaded guilty to a string of charges in connection with the attacks, was said in Supreme Court to have several previous convictions. These included robbery, supplying cocaine, assault, wounding, threatening behaviour and carrying an offensive weapon.

His defence counsel admitted that Todd, now 36, was heavily addicted to drugs and had been on opiates for eight days prior to the terrifying attacks. She added that he had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Then-Chief Justice Richard Ground said it was only a matter of luck that his victims had not been more seriously injured.

And he ordered that Todd should have psychotherapy and medical treatment while in prison.

Last night police confirmed Todd was still at large. Acting Chief Inspector Andy Morgan said: “We are grateful to the public for the number of calls with sightings of Mr Todd within the last 24 hours. Unfortunately on each occasion the information has been received too late and Mr Todd has moved on prior to Police arrival. If Mr Todd is seen, the public are urged to call the main police number of 295-0011 without delay, so he can be brought into custody and this matter brought to a conclusion at the earliest opportunity. I would like to thank the public for their on-going assistance in this matter”.

Harbouring a fugitive is an arrestable offence, punishable under law.

When we spoke to the police last night about Todd’s criminal record, a police spokesman said that officers took the absconding of any prisoner seriously: “We have standard advice which asks for the public’s assistance. However, we do not wish for anyone to put themselves at risk.

“People should not approach Mr Todd — simply notify the authorities.”