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From Alcatraz and Cruces to Helicopter Escape: Stories of the most daring escapes from impregnable prisons

Date: March 27, 2023 Time: 07:24:54

Charles Sobraj spent more than half his life in prison, but he is famous for two daring escapes. PHOTO: PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/EAST NEWS

At the end of last year, Charles Sobraj, known by the nicknames of Serpent and Bikini Killer, was released. According to his passport, a Frenchman, and half Indian, half Vietnamese by blood, he was accused of killing European tourists in the 1970s and 1980s in Southeast Asia.

In the early 2000s, he was arrested by the Nepalese authorities and charged with the murder of two tourists in 1975. Sobraj spent almost 20 years behind bars and was released for health reasons.

This was not the first term of the Serpent. Before that, he was imprisoned in India, where he spent 12 years. Thanks to the fact that Sobraj was able to bring precious stones to the prison, he led a luxurious life behind bars: a cozy cell, delicious food, television, meetings with journalists.

At the end of his term, Sobraj was threatened with extradition to Thailand, where he was wanted, followed by trial and death. Therefore, in 1986, the criminal threw a big party for his cellmates and security. He treated the convoy and cellmates to a drugged cake and escaped from prison. They quickly arrested him, in one of the Goan restaurants, and extended his sentence for another 10 years.

Komsomolskaya Pravda recalls other daring cases of prison breaks in history.


El Chapo during his arrest. Photo: AP/FOTOLINK/EASTERN NEWS

Mexican drug lord El Chapo (Joaquín Guzmán Loera) has found himself behind bars more than once and each time he managed to escape. He was first arrested in 1993 in Guatemala and sent home, where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. But in 2001, after having bribed the workers of one of the strictest prisons, he escaped, hiding in a car with dirty clothes. Intelligence agencies around the world were looking for him, and a bounty of nearly $4 million was placed on his head.

In 2014, El Chapo was again detained without a shot being fired. But a year later, he escaped from the Altiplano maximum security prison. To escape from him, his accomplices dug a tunnel under the cell, one and a half kilometers long, equipped it with lighting, ventilation and sleepers. The drug lord escaped to freedom with the help of a cart converted to a motorcycle. The prison workers were also charged with aiding and abetting.

Mexican actress Kate del Castillo after her role in the television series “Reina del Sur” liked the drug lord El Chapo. Photo: AFP/EASTERN NEWS

It is true that El Chapo was not free for long. In 2016, he was caught again. It was the fault of one woman – the Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. The drug dealer was her admirer and invited her to a meeting. So the secret services were able to track him down. Three years later, he was sentenced to life without parole.


Escape stories often form the basis of Hollywood movies. One of them is “Catch Me If You Can” with Leonardo DiCaprio. Frank Abagnale – mid-20th century Ostap Bender – embarked on a slippery slope as a teenager, cheating even his father out of $3.4K. During his “career” he “changed” eight professions, posing as a US customs clerk, TWA airline pilot, doctor, teacher, worked in the Louisiana Attorney General’s office. He also stole cars multiple times, stole other people’s bank checks, forged documents, and ultimately stole $2.5 million from banks. He has two successful jailbreaks to his credit.

Frank Abagnale after his arrest in 1974.ru. Photo: wikipedia.org

The first time he was convicted in Louisiana, he was sentenced to 12 years of supervised probation, but two weeks after the verdict, Frank fled to Europe. But even there he continued to do what he loved: warrants were issued for his arrest in France, Sweden and Italy.

As a result, in 1971, the American justice system sent him to prison for forging checks for 12 years. But even then, Abagnale nearly escaped and convinced prison authorities that he was an undercover FBI agent. One fine day, Frank was released to meet with the FBI leaders. Fortunately, he was quickly arrested.

Later, real FBI agents came to Abagnale in prison, offering him reduced time in exchange for consultations. Frank agreed and was released four years later. After that, the hardened criminal made up his mind, becoming one of the successful consultants in the field of security.


The impregnable Alcatraz.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Alcatraz prison, nicknamed “The Rock,” has long been considered a place from which it is impossible to escape. The prison was located on a small island two kilometers off the coast of San Francisco, and in 29 years of operation, only 13 escape attempts were made and all were unsuccessful. Armed guards were posted at each outpost and iron bars were installed on all windows and ventilation openings. But in June 1962, three prisoners Frank Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin became the lucky ones to conquer the Rock.

Three prisoners who disappeared without a trace.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

For several months, they dug in the vent under the sink to turn it into a hole. Using a scoop and a motor from a vacuum cleaner, they made a drill.

On the night of the escape, they left papier-mâché body models on their beds and headed out through the tunnel to freedom. But this was only half the battle – it was necessary to get to the mainland by water. Rubber raincoats and windbreaks came in handy here, from which the prisoners made an inflatable raft.

The inmates spent months digging a secret passage to find a way out.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Surprisingly, after that, the traces of the fugitives are lost. Their searches were fruitless. They were supposed to have drowned. However, the case of the escape is still open, it will be closed only when the prisoners turn 100 years old.


Only three prisoners managed to escape from the legendary Kresty prison, in 1922, 1991 and 1992.

In February 1992 the most famous escape attempt took place. Repeat offender Yuri Perepelkin ended up in the “Crosses” in the summer of 1991, for the murder he was threatened with execution or life imprisonment. He had nothing to lose. Behind bars, he immediately surrounded himself with accomplices, putting together a seven-person gang.

The escape was scheduled for February 23, when one of the employees of the remand center was planning to organize a birthday party. The operation began in the morning. During the walk, by a lucky chance, there was no guard on the tower, and the criminals took advantage of this, taking the escort hostage. An attempt to get out onto the roof was unsuccessful, the door was locked, and the guards noticed the escapees, who reported the incident to the operating part of the remand center.

The criminals switched to “Plan B”, taking two more employees of the “Crosses” hostage. Frightening the special forces with a dummy grenade, the prisoners took refuge in the office, from where they presented their demands: weapons, a car for the airport and a plane abroad.

The leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs demanded an assault, but the operational headquarters were waiting for the criminals to break down, but this did not happen. The negotiations were also unsuccessful, because the prisoners got drunk on cognac, which they found in the office. During the assault, three prisoners were killed, but before they managed to kill one of the guards.


The escape from the colony in the village of Sheksna, Vologda Oblast, is striking in its simplicity. In March 2012, Alexei Shestakov, convicted of a triple murder, flew… an Mi-2 helicopter. At that time, the prisoners were out for a walk. The ship made several circles, went down, a rope ladder was thrown over the side, along which Shestakov climbed into the helicopter. The stunned prison staff did not even have time to realize what had happened.

Later it turned out that Shestakov personally rented a Vologda Airlines helicopter by phone directly from the colony. At the airport, the convict’s accomplices boarded the ship. Threatening the pilot with a weapon, they ordered to fly to the prison.

After an unforgettable escape, Shestakov and his assistants were arrested two days later.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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