BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Seven of the eight IRA prisoners who shot their way out of the fortified Crumlin Road jail this week were convicted in absentia today of crimes ranging from murder to weapons possession.
All seven were sentenced to life in prison.
The seven were members of the 'M-60 machine gun gang' named after the American-made weapon used in two killings last year.
Security forces, taking part in one of the largest manhunts in Northern Ireland's history, searched hundreds of houses in Roman Catholic strongholds in West Belfast looking for the fugitives.
At a non-jury trial in a courtroom just a few hundred yards from the scene of Wednesday's dramatic escape, the Crumlin Road jail warden responded: 'Escaped from our custody' when the seven names were called.
The trial proceeded without them.
Four of the escaped prisoners were declared guilty of murdering British army Capt. Richard Westmacott in Belfast last May. Three other gang members were convicted of possession of the M-60 machine gun used in the killing.
Angelo Fusco, 24, Paul Patrick Magee, 33, Robert Joseph Campbell, 27 and Joseph Patrick Doherty, 28, were found guilty of killing Westmacott. Anthony Sloan, Michael McKee and Gerard Sloan were found guilty of possession of the machine gun used in the killing.
The judge recommennded that Fusco, Magee Campbell and Doherty serve a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Two members of the gang who did not escape, John O'Neill and John Ronald King, were acquitted and released.
The eighth escaped prisoner, Michael J. Ryan, has been charged with murder but his case was not heard in today's court session.
All eight were listed as 'most wanted' by security forces and thousands of posters bearing their pictures dotted the city.
Police raided hundreds of homes in the Republican districts of the city and roadblocks were set up on all major roads going in and out of the sprawling Catholic ghetto on Belfast's west side.
Three lawyers visiting the jail were still being questioned to determine how the prisoners were able suddenly to brandish guns at prison staff Wednesday and escape.
'This escape was very carefully planned and very well carried out,' Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins Thursday told the House of Commons in London in announcing an investigation into the breakout.