Sunderland killer’s bid for early release from prison

Robert Fox (top) and victim Fred Fowler, who was killed in the Tap and Barrel pub in Sunderland in 2004

Robert Fox (top) and victim Fred Fowler, who was killed in the Tap and Barrel pub in Sunderland in 2004

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KILLER Robert Fox is set to be freed from prison after serving just half his 15-year sentence.

The devastated victims of the Salem Street shootings today expressed anger that Fox could begin his bid for freedom within months.

Fox was jailed for his role in the death of pensioner Fred Fowler, 72, during the shootings in July 2004.

Fred, 72, had been enjoying a pint at the Tap and Barrel pub in Hendon when Fox, then 38, and hitman Robert Chapman charged into the pub, killing the pensioner and leaving Michael Nixon, 19, for dead.

Fox, of Red House, was found guilty of manslaughter in March 2006, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent and possession of a firearm without a certificate.

Now Fred’s distraught daughter, Patricia Anderson, has received a letter from the National Probation Service informing her that Fox will be released by the end of 2014, if not sooner.

The killer has also been downgraded to a category D prison, meaning he could be given day release, allowing him to spend weekends in the community.

Devastated Patricia, 45, said: “If it was up to me he would never get out, but it’s not up to me.

“This letter is just warning me that he could be up for parole and day release but it will depend on various things.

“When I read anything about him it’s a shock and I can only hope this doesn’t happen.

“The justice system isn’t working the way it should be but it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do about it.

“I’m not looking forward to the day but it’s better to know where he is than to find out of someone else.

“All I can do is take each day as it comes and I do always worry about it but that day is eventually going to come.”

Patricia said she has struggled over the years to come to terms with the death of her dad and has focused on trying to ensure her own son leads a normal life.

“I’m just trying to protect him from everything,” she said.

In 2009, Patricia, along with Michael, received a letter from the National Probation Service saying Fox wanted to apologise for his actions. The pair both rejected the letter.

After the trial, Chapman, then 36, was convicted of murder, attempted murder and possession of a revolver and jailed for life.

He was told he would not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 27 years behind bars.

Fox denied having anything to do with the killings, claiming he was at a nearby garage when they took place.

* William Tobin, 48, of Kilwick Street, Hartlepool, was jailed for two years for his role in the shootings after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit affray and assisting offenders, while Lee Hay, 20, was sentenced to 18 months, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit affray.

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