UK’s outrageous prison escapes – from spy to robber who had £40k plastic surgery

Don’t miss a thing! Sign up to the Daily Star’s newsletter

Brits can sleep easily in their beds knowing the country’s most dangerous criminals are banged up in high security prisons.

But although real life Shawshank Redemption stories are extremely rare, they have happened on our shores.

It was only last week when a manhunt for notorious double killer Darren Pilkington was launched after he bolted from open prison.

The 39-year-old was on the run from HMP Kirkham in Lancashire – before being captured in Horwich, Bolton, at the weekend.

Pilkington was caged in 2006 for murdering his then girlfriend Carly Fairhurst and he was also locked up five years earlier for beating Paul Akister to death outside a pub.

Below, we look at other inmates who have bolted from British prisons – from lags who hid in gyms, forged makeshift ropes and even drove through gates in pursuits of freedom.

HMP Wandsworth, 1965

In 1963, London-born villain Ronnie Biggs was convicted for his part in what became known as The Great Train Robbery.

Biggs and 14 others accomplices made off with £2.6million after robbing a Royal Mail train on August 8, 1963.

He was later slapped with a 30-year sentence – but served just 15 months after scaling the walls of HMP Wandsworth in south London with a rope and ladder.

The criminal drove off in a removals van before going on the run for 36 years in Australia and Brazil after spending £40,000 on plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.

Aged 72, he flew back to the UK in 2001 where he was sent to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

He died at 84 in 2013, four years after being released from prison on compassionate grounds.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs, 1966

Just one year after Biggs’ getaway, a British traitor managed to scarper from HMP Wormwood Scrubs in west London.

George Blake was sentenced in 1961 to 42 years inside for spilling M16 secrets to the Soviet Union – sending dozens of Western agents to their deaths.

But shortly after England lifted the 1966 World Cup, Blake climbed the prison walls and later crossed into East Berlin where his Soviet spymasters collected him.

He started a new life in Moscow before his death in December 2020 aged 98.

At the time Sergey Ivanov, spokesman for the SVR foreign intelligence agency, formerly the KGB, said: “The bitter news has come – the legendary George Blake is gone. He died of old age, his heart stopped.”

HMP Maze, 1983

It is coming up to the 40th of the largest prison breakout in UK history where one officer was killed.

The shocking escape happened in September 1983 at HMP Maze, County Down, which closed at the turn of the century.

Thirty-eight IRA lags got away after a prison meal lorry was hijacked.

And, during the disturbance, four prison officers were stabbed while six others were shot after being overpowered. Officer James Ferris was knifed before suffering a fatal heart attack.

Authorities eventually tracked down most of the Republicans with 15 being retaken within hours.

Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called it the “gravest [prison escape] in our present history”.

HMP Brixton, 1991

Last year marked 30 years since IRA members Nessan Quinlivan and Pearse McAuley shot their way out of HMP Brixton – and got away with it.

The pair were awaiting trial after being accused of conspiring to murder brewery boss Sir Charles Tidbury.

They made their daring escape after McAuley used a gun from his shoe to threaten guards.

He fired shots before the dangerous duo fled across the perimeter wall.

One officer was shot in the leg during the terrifying ordeal before his car was stolen by the escapees.

They then travelled to Ireland and in 2009 the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there would be no chance of conviction for the attempted murder and conspiracy to cause explosions charges.

By then McAuley had been convicted for manslaughter for his role in Detective Garda Jerry McCabe’s killing.

And in December 2014 McAuley was in further trouble after assaulting his estranged wife – stabbing her 13 times.

She somehow managed to survive the horrific ordeal and McAuley was sentenced to 12 years behind bars, with four years suspended.

HMP Pentonville, 2012

In June it will be 10 years since one of Britain’s longest serving lags John Massey escaped HMP Pentonville in north London.

The then 64-year-old was serving a life sentence for shooting bouncer Charlie Higgins to death at a Hackney boozer in 1975.

But in 2012 he used a makeshift rope to climb a prison roof and scale the wall after hiding in a gym – before being arrested in Kent 48 hours later.

He was denied parole in 2016 and speaking from Rochester Prison in Kent, he fumed: "I am sitting here not getting anywhere.”

Massey, who has spent over four decades inside, added: “Apparently I am more dangerous now than I was 20 years ago. It is twisted logic.”

However, he was released two years later.

  • Prison News

Source: Read Full Article