Jennifer Dornan suspect due for release within weeks
THE family of murdered west Belfast woman Jennifer Dornan have expressed concern that the only suspect in the case could evade questioning.
Raymond O'Neill is set to be released from prison in the Republic within weeks - but no extradition warrant is yet in place to bring him to Northern Ireland.
Ms Dornan (30), who had children aged eight, five and three, was stabbed to death in her home in the Lagmore area of Belfast in August last year.
It is believed she was followed by her killer from a friend's house on the night of the attack.
Detectives believe she was stabbed with a 14-inch blade before the upstairs of the property was set on fire to destroy the evidence.
O'Neill, who was unlawfully at large at the time after failing to return to Mountjoy prison in Dublin after a period of temporary release, was arrested by gardai in Bundoran, Co Donegal the following week.
Originally from Andersonstown in west Belfast and with a previous address in Summerhill Walk, Dunmurry, he was returned to jail but is thought to be due for release in the first week of February.
Police said this week that a file relating to O'Neill has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service.
However, The Irish News understands the case is still under consideration and prosecutors have been consulting with senior police as part of the process.
A legal bid to transfer a suspect can only be made once a police file has been submitted to and reviewed by the PPS.
The process of extradition can take many months, stretching to years if the suspect appeals.
As a general rule, it is not lawful to arrest a person in the Republic in order to simply investigate an offence in another jurisdiction - only to charge them with an offence.
Unless a decision to prosecute is fast tracked along with the application for a European arrest warrant, O'Neill will be able to walk free from Mountjoy.
With almost 90 previous convictions, the 37-year-old has a history of absconding.
Last February he was extradited to the south and sentenced to three years for a creeper-style burglary during which a homeowner was assaulted in Carlingford, Co Louth in 2010.
In January 2011 he was released on bail after lodging €3,000 in cash as a surety, but failed to return to stand trial.
He was arrested in Belfast in July 2013 and held in Maghaberry on foot of a European arrest warrant before being extradited.
With O'Neill thought to be due for release from Mountjoy within weeks, there are fears that he could disappear again before detectives have an opportunity to question him about the murder of Ms Dornan.
A member of her family said on Thursday night they were "concerned" that he could be released before arrangements are in place to bring back to Northern Ireland.
"We just want a fair trial and for justice to be served," the relative said.
"Our lives have been ruined, Jennifer's children have been devastated and while our family have come together to care for them we can't replace their mother."