A MOTHER of a five-year-old who was raped and murdered will present a petition to the Prime Minister this afternoon pleading for her killer not to be released from prison.

John Johnston was jailed indefinitely in 1989 for the brutal sex killing of Margaret Lowther.

Her mother, Carol Lowther, a gipsy - who lives near Oxbridge Cemetery in Stockton, Teesside, where Margaret is buried - hopes the petition will prevent Johnston from being released from Magheraberry Prison in Northern Ireland, where his life sentence is being reviewed.

Mrs Lowther, who will be joined by Stockton South MP Dari Taylor, said: "Why should he get out when my daughter was denied her life and lies in the cemetery? I have to live with that every day.

"I still wait for her to come in from playing. I cannot accept what he did. I wake up with thoughts of her, and go to sleep thinking of her. I will never let go."

The attack was carried out in February 1988 in Morecambe, Lancashire, when Johnston was 17.

Margaret had been suffocated in a pool of mud while Johnston, her cousin, carried out the rape.

Johnston, who was seeking to cover his tracks, joined the search party formed after her disappearance then "found" Margaret's naked body near the travellers' site.

Ms Taylor said: "Mrs Lowther and I hope to persuade the Prime Minister that it is still far too early to even consider reviewing this man's sentence because of the heinous nature of this crime.

"Margaret died in the most appalling way and after only 12 years in prison he remains a threat to the community.

"There remains the very real prospect that he will strike again and take another young life.

"This must be prevented at all costs."