An inquiry will be held into how a convicted killer dubbed the Black Dog Strangler escaped from a secure hospital, health trust bosses said yesterday.

Phillip Westwater, 44, now known as Whiteman, left his clothes in a pile at St Nicholas Hospital, Newcastle, after asking to use the toilet during an escorted visit within the site on Wednesday.

The twice-married patient, who was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act after paralysing a man during a pub fight in 1989, was reportedly found in a bar in the city centre's gay area after a member of the public recognised him from a photo circulated by the media.

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Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust runs a medium secure unit within its St Nicholas site, and said Whiteman escaped during an escorted visit to a restaurant in another building.

A trust spokesman said: "The trust takes safety extremely seriously and strives to provide safe and therapeutic care for patients while minimising risks in relation to absconsion."