A FORMER East Lancashire top cop has called for life sentences handed down by the courts to mean life for murderers.

Jim Oldcorn, who used to work in CID as a detective inspector, was speaking following a decision to extradite Anthony Craig, who absconded from prison in 2002 and fled to Ireland after he was convicted of the murder of accountant John Kirby, in Blackburn.

Mr Oldcorn, who lives in Great Harwood, said killers like Craig should die behind bars, because the family of their victims have to deal with the consequences of the crime for the rest of their lives.

Mr Oldcorn said Craig, who had served 28 years of his sentence before walking out of an open prison, had been allowed to start his life afresh.

The 71-year-old said: “To find Craig had absconded and then, it would appear, been allowed to live and get married is insulting. Life should mean life.”

Craig was sentenced to life behind bars after he killed 32-year-old Mr Kirby in Corporation Park, Blackburn, in 1973 by hitting him repeatedly with a brick.

The 66-year-old has now been ordered to return to the UK by the High Court in the Republic of Ireland, after relocating to Dublin following his escape.

Craig, formerly of Kendal Street, Blackburn, is currently out on bail until September 8, when he is expected to appeal the Irish court’s decision.

He murdered Mr Kirby, from Whalley Road, Samlesbury, after following him to the park under the pretence that the two were going to have sex.

The killer then robbed Mr Kirby, who was openly gay, of twopence and hit him three times over the head with a brick.

Mr Oldcorn, who helped with house-to-house inquiries following the death and also had to tell Mr Kirby’s mother about what happened to her son, said: “For a man who was capable of such wicked violence, life should mean life.

“Mr Kirby was a perfectly innocent young man. Nobody ever deserves to be murdered.

“His poor mother must be turning in her grave at recent events.”