A GRIEVING mother is stepping up a campaign aimed at keeping her daughter's murderer behind bars.

Carol Lowther is asking to meet Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid to urge him not to release John Johnston, who raped and murdered her five-year-old daughter, Margaret.

Johnston could be released this month from Magheraberry Prison, Belfast.

In 1989, when Johnston was ordered to be detained indefinitely, Judge Sir Sanderson Temple described the killing as "revolting, appalling in the extreme, and abominable".

Margaret had been suffocated in a pool of mud while Johnston - her cousin - forced himself on her.

The prosecution alleged she was murdered so she could not identity him as her attacker.

Johnston, then aged 17, is alleged to have told police Margaret "just turned me on".

Mrs Lowther has already handed a 3,000-name petition into Downing Street, carried out a lone picketing protest outside Magheraberry, and handed in a letter of protest to Stormont House.

"I am doing all I can," said Mrs Lowther, who lives near the Oxbridge Cemetery, Stockton, where Margaret is buried.

"I am doing it to keep the murderer who took my five-year-old daughter away from me behind bars. He should never be allowed out."