Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Drama as locals capture on-the-run paedophiles

The protracted hunt for two convicted paedophiles, wanted by police for a range of offences, reached a dramatic conclusion on Saturday when the pair were apprehended by members of the public in Mullaghbawn.

Twenty-six-year-old Alexis Guesto from Bessbrook – who is also known as Jason Lydiard – and James White (48), originally from Cloughreagh, have previously been convicted of a string of sexual offences against children and were being sought in relation to serious breaches of their release conditions as well as warrant violations.  

A number of positive sightings of the pair in the Silverbridge area on Saturday morning sparked a major man hunt involving PSNI officers using specially trained sniffer dogs while a police helicopter kept watch from the air.  Members of the community, concerned for the safety of their children while these child sex offenders remained at large, joined in the search and hours later located the men who were reportedly hiding in remote scrubland.  The pair were allegedly assaulted before being taken to Mullaghbawn village where they were tied to a bench and covered in paint.  Alerted by the public, police then arrived on the scene and bundled the men into patrol cars before speeding away.  En route to Newry, White and Guesto were transferred to an ambulance and then taken under police escort to Daisy Hill Hospital for treatment.

The mens’ capture sparked a wave of relief on social media with hundreds of messages praising those involved in their detention.  But a PSNI statement released soon afterwards criticised the manner in which the pair were caught and said police will seek to identify those involved in the alleged assaults.  

Revealing that Guesto and White were taken to hospital for treatment, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie, from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, said the police would be investigating the assaults and “working to identify anyone involved”.

“I understand that feelings in the area have been running high over the search for these men, however, there can never be an excuse for violence or people taking the law into their own hands,” she said.

This drew angry responses from the public who claimed those responsible for capturing the men should be rewarded for doing the job of the police instead of being punished.

In a follow up statement on Sunday, Det Chf Insp Duffie said White and Guesto were found by “a group of males” and were kicked and beaten with iron bars.

“Both men were taken to hospital by police, one of the males has been arrested and the other remains in hospital being treated for his injuries.  Both men will be brought before the court at the earliest opportunity in relation to the matters for which they were being sought,” she said.

Stating that she was pleased with the assistance given to police by the community throughout the ongoing search, she added: “Unfortunately, now, due to the violent actions of a small number of people, we have had to redirect resources and efforts towards investigating a serious assault. There is no excuse for individuals taking the law into their own hands nor for the violent scenes that we witnessed last night.”