KILLER John Cannan could be released from prison within weeks.

Cannan was convicted of murdering Shirley Banks, and for a string of other violent and sexual offences, in 1998.

He is currently serving three full life sentences in HM Prison Full Sutton, but could soon walk the streets again if the parole board determine he is fit to be released.

On September 20, Cannan will go before a parole board, who could transfer the murderer to an open prison, or release him from custody altogether.

Government guidance states that prisoners will only be allowed a parole hearing where there is 'a realistic prospect of them being released or moved to open conditions.'

Former detective Jim Dickie led the investigation into the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, a 25-year-old estate agent who went missing in 1986 before later being presumed dead.

Mr Dickie considers Cannan the prime suspect in the case, and maintains that the convict continues to pose a threat to women. Speaking in 2006 Mr Dickie said:

"Cannan will reoffend. He should never be released. If you look at his profile, I have no doubt he will strike again. He has been released from prison before and committed crimes.

"He is a danger to the female population, particularly the blonde, twenty-something professionals like Suzy. Even if he wasn't released until he was 60 he would go on to abduct, rape and murder women."

Although Cannan was never convicted of the killing of Ms Lamplugh, detectives named his as the only suspect.

Searches for Ms Lamplugh's body, which has never been discovered, have previously focused around Norton Manor Camp Marine Base, just eight miles from 'Dead Women's Ditch' where Cannan dumped the body of Shirley Banks.

Cannan has also been named as a suspect in a string of rape cases which occurred in the Midlands in the late 1970s. During this period, twenty women were raped in the West Midlands area, where Cannan then lived, for which no person was ever caught or convicted.

He was also interviewed by detectives in connection with the murder of 27-year-old Sandra Court, whose body was discovered in a Dorset ditch by a group of walkers. Two hairs matching the DNA of Ms Court were discovered in Cannan's Ford Sierra, but charges were never brought.

If the parole board come to the view that Cannan should be moved, he could be transferred to a category D open prison, such as Leyhill in Gloucestershire. These are low security prisons which allow inmates to spend most of their time outside the walls, but are typically required to return to their cells in the evening.