Escaped convict hands himself in after 29 years as Covid left him homeless

A convict who escaped prison 30 years ago has handed himself into police after the coronavirus pandemic left him homeless, police have revealed.

Darko Desic, 64, had been left homeless and destitute after the effects of Covid-19 last year saw his regular work as a labourer dry up.

He had served just over a year of a three-and-a-half-year sentence for cultivation of cannabis at the Grafton Correctional Centre in New South Wales, Australia, in 1992 when he broke out with a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters.

Reports from the Australian Daily Telegraph suggest that he fled the institution after fearing that he would be deported back to the former Yugoslavia upon serving his time.

This meant that he would be liable to prosecution in his then-home country for avoiding mandatory military service.

A source from New South Wales Police said that Desic had stayed off their radar ever since going on the run by living a largely normal life.

The source said: "He's been completely law abiding, never come under attention, never been spoken to.

"[Desic] told us he never caused anyone any trouble so no one ever looked at him twice."

The fugitive is understood to have been taking cash-in-hand jobs on Sydney's northern beaches, meaning he avoided potential detection by the authorities through staying off official systems.

His freedom was going swimmingly until the arrival of pandemic restrictions in his state in 2020 brought a staggering halt to these informal arrangements.

The source added: "COVID stopped all the cash work, he's become homeless over the past couple of weeks.

"He slept on the beach on Saturday night and said 'stuff it, I'll go back to prison where there's a roof over my head.'"

After turning up at a police station on Sunday and identifying himself, Desic was charged with escape from lawful custody.

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He has been refused bail, and will return to court for another hearing later in the month.

The former cannabis farmer isn't the first to be driven into the arms of law enforcement by the global coronavirus pandemic.

During the last lockdown, a man wanted on recall by Sussex Police took himself into Burgess Hill police station for some "peace and quiet" after deciding that he would rather go to prison than stay in the home of the people he was living with.

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