Campaigners have called for a triple child murderer dubbed the Monster of Worcester to remain behind bars after it emerged he is being allowed unescorted trips out of jail in preparation for his release.
A Home Office decision to let David McGreavy to take unsupervised breaks at a hostel in Liverpool 33 years after the horrific crime prompted fresh outrage in Worcester, where in 1973 he butchered three children while babysitting and impaled their bodies on garden railings.
Mike Foster, the city's MP, said last night he doubted whether McGreavy could ever be properly rehabilitated. Mr Foster (Worcester Lab) said he would prefer to see McGreavy spend the rest of his life in prison, but if he is released he should be banned from setting foot in Worcester.
He added: "You are talking about an act of unspeakable brutality and cruelty and the memories are still fresh. I don't believe in the death penalty, but there are circumstances where a life sentence should mean life."
Peter Luff, the MP for MidWorcestershire, said there was considerable doubt whether McGreavy was safe to re-enter society and he drew a comparison with Myra Hyndley and Ian Brady, the Moors Murderers, who were given a whole-life tariff.
Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, echoed the call for McGreavy to remain behind bars for the rest of his life.
"My view is there has to be exceptionally good reasons why any child killer should be released," he said. "I think the crimes are so horrific and barbaric that he should never, ever be allowed to be free.
"While he's allowed to walk free, the family still really feel the true life sentence. As if the murder of one child wasn't bad enough. How many children do you have to murder, how many more do you have to kill these days before you serve a real life sentence?"
McGreavy was told by a judge at his trial that he would have to serve at least 20 years after killing the Ralph children - Samantha, aged nine months; Dawn, two; and Paul, four, while lodging at the family home in Gillam Street, Worcester. Mr Justice Ash-worth wrote to the Home Secretary warning that McGreavy was very dangerous and could kill again.
But McGreavy, who studied for an art degree from his cell, was moved to Ford Open prison in Sussex in 1994, a switch normally made only in the run-up to release. One of his paintings was exhibited in a Birmingham gallery. He has been allowed numerous dayrelease trips since then and was photographed recently in Liverpool. Under the terms of
his partial release, McGreavy is permitted free access to Liverpool's streets from 7am to dusk.
The details of McGreavy's crime shocked jurors at his trial. He cut the throats of two of his tiny victims and strangled the third with curtain wire. Then he beat the bodies with a pick-axe handle and impaled them on iron railings in a neighbour's garden.
When arrested, McGreavy admitted the killings, saying he lost his temper when baby Samantha would not stop crying. He smashed her head against a wall and killed her with a double-edged razor.
Dorothy Urry, the mother of the children, was reported yesterday to have called for McGreavy to be given the electric chair.
Mrs Urry said: "I cannot believe it. This man took three children's lives.
"I wouldn't trust him near any kids. It's just not safe."
A Home Office spokes-woman said she could not discuss individual cases. However, she said it was "normal" for life sentence prisoners to be allowed out temporarily before their release.
She added: "All prisoners will be fully risk-assessed before being moved to an open prison or being allowed out on a temporary licence. It's a tightly managed process. It happens as part of our commitment to rehabilitate prisoners and to help them re-integrate into society."