A CITY centre manager has told how a fugitive killer was found in his company’s bar.
Cris Howe said regulars drinking in The Bank bar spotted Phillip Westwater – known as the Black Dog Strangler – thanks to his distinctive tattoos.
And he described how police surrounded the Newcastle pub before apprehending the convicted criminal, who had spent 12 hours on the run from a psychiatric hospital.
Mr Howe, entertainment manager at Copenhagen 1801, which owns The Bank, said Westwater befriended regular drinkers in the gay bar after going on the run on Wednesday.
“He didn’t have any money but had befriended one of the customers, who was buying him drinks,” said Mr Howe. “He just sat there drinking pints, nothing unusual.
“But the customer became suspicious when Westwater started asking if he could stay the night. One of the group he was with looked on Facebook and saw the picture the police had put out.
“Although he looked a little different from the photo, his distinctive tattoos gave him away, so he went outside and phoned the police.
“The police came down and surrounded the bar and caught him in the toilet at around 11pm.”
Mr Howe said Westwater, who is also known as Whiteman, went willingly with police without a scuffle.
But he added the 44-year-old could have been caught sooner if a picture had been circulated earlier in the day.
“The bar manager said she had seen him in there when she started her shift at 6pm and he could have been there all day,” he said. “As his photo wasn’t released till late at night no one knew who they were looking for. I can’t believe that it wasn’t put out more quickly.”
Northumbria Police said the photograph was circulated “as soon as it was made available to us from the hospital authorities”. Westwater escaped from St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, Newcastle, at around 10am on Wednesday.
He was visiting a restaurant on the site while on “escorted leave” from the medium-security unit where he is normally held.
He asked to use the toilet and vanished, leaving a pile of clothes behind.
Westwater, who is originally from Newcastle, was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act after paralysing a man in a 1989 pub fight.
A year later, he killed a fellow inmate at Liverpool’s Ashworth Hospital with his dressing gown cord, convinced his victim had turned into a black dog. He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust said an internal inquiry would take place. A spokesman said: “Planned or escorted leave is an important part of any patient’s treatment plan, especially when working towards their recovery. Arrangements for escorted leave are rigorously risk-assessed.
“We will be carrying out a thorough internal review of this incident as soon as colleagues at Northumbria Police have concluded their investigation.”