Killer who picked up victim in a park to be extradited to the UK

A fugitive jailed for robbing and murdering a gay man he ostensibly picked up for sex is to be extradited to the UK from Ireland.

Anthony Craig, 66, who absconded from an open prison in Derbyshire, made away with just two pence after killing accountant John Kirby in Blackburn’s Corporation Park.

He had pretended to be sexually interested in his victim in the minutes leading up to the murder.

He struck 32-year old Mr Kirby on the head repeatedly with stones – including a brick – during the frenzied attack in November 1973.

Craig fled to Ireland after making his escape in 2002 and was arrested in Dublin more than 10 years later, in February last year.

The murderer had served 26 years of his life sentence before walking out of HMP Sudbury and failing to return.

Irish Police eventually found Craig in Rathcoole and The Republic of Ireland’s High Court ordered he be sent back to Britain, the Lancashire Telegraph reported.

However, he is expected to appeal against the court’s decision when he returns for a further hearing on 8 September 2014.

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Craig, a former labourer who lived in Blackburn at the time he murdered Mr Kirby, admitted he had pretended to be gay and followed his victim to the park – then a popular cruising ground – intending to rob him.

He knocked openly-gay Mr Kirby unconscious and left him in a pool of blood.

But, fearing he might later be identified by his victim, he returned and murdered him by smashing his skull open with a brick.

Mr Kirby had spent the evening drinking at the Merchants Hotel in Darwen Street, Blackburn, which at the time was a popular gay venue.

Criag initially protested his innocence, claiming he had acted in self-defence. But after the police produced six bloodied stones as evidence, he changed his plea to guilty.

At a six-day-trial he was convicted after the jury deliberated for just 45 minutes, according to the newspaper.

Craig had already absconded from jail once, in 1995, when he went on the run from Cumbria’s HMP Haverigg to see his ill brother.

He handed himself into police a month later in Manchester.