Strangely, loud music broadcast over the public address system of the prison on weekend nights could have aided the prison break.
“Sometimes wrongdoers are trapped by their own actions.” The saying seems to hold true for “Oopa” Prakash, the convict who broke out of the Central Prison here along with death row prisoner “Ripper” Jayanandan, early on June 10.
The police detained Prakash at around 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday from Krishnapuram, barely 4 km from his village in Oachira in Kollam district. At the time, he was buying cigarettes from a shop at Kalathattil junction.
And, Prakash’s actions as a fugitive from law defied logic. He broke out of prison with his cell mate, an accused in eight murder-for-gain and 14 burglary cases, when he had almost served his sentence for simple theft.
After his daring escape, Prakash made himself obvious in his village, drinking in neighbourhood toddy shops, bars, travelling in auto-rickshaws and frequently purchasing liquor from the government-owned outlet at Kolloor junction. He visited a local blacksmith to forge a crowbar and boasted that he would steal again.
“He made himself conspicuous and behaved as if he had no care in the world”, an official said. The police were also covertly watching Prakash in the vain hope that he would make contact with the “Ripper.” However, their hopes to get Jayanandan seemed dashed when television channels broke the news that Prakash had been held.
Strangely, loud music broadcast over the public address system of the prison on weekend nights could have aided the prison break. The duo was housed in the maximum-security “condemned cell” in the UT block adjacent to the gallows.
The fugitives had sawed through the cylindrical “dead latch” of the padlocked cell’s grilled door with hacksaw blades on such nights to mask the grating noise they made.
They scaled the relatively low wall of the block, which had been fortified and topped with a barbed wire fence in 2011 to house terror suspect Thadiyantavide Nazeer, after 10 p.m. (The block is just in front of the heavily guarded landmark entrance of the 125-year-old prison). They then hid in the densely planted patches of banana and tapioca plantations till after midnight.
They then proceeded to the infirmary block and used bedsheets and clothes left out to dry on the clotheslines to make a rope ladder.
The convicts hastily assembled a crude ladder from the wooden poles to scale the 7 m high perimeter wall of the prison. (The poles were used to prop up banana saplings planted in the nine acres within the seven-m high walls of the prison.)
Once on top of the wall, they used the rope ladder to abseil down its “frightening height.”
The police said the escapees had shed their jail uniform for civilian clothes, which they had kept with them inside the cell, to mix easily with the civilian population.
They had made up their cots inside the cell with vessels and pillows to make it appear as if they were sleeping. The prison’s extensive surveillance camera network was down at the time of the escape, purportedly due to a power outage.
The police suspect that the escapees made much headway towards the direction of Kollam, possibly using public transport, before they split ways.