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Goroka prison break frees hardened criminals

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, October 8, 2009) – Twenty-eight prisoners, including a woman, broke out of the Goroka police cells on Tuesday night and dashed to freedom.

Most of the escapees are hardcore criminals charged with crimes including attempted murder, sexual penetration, rape, robbery and a string of other offences while the lone woman escapee was locked up for unlawful wounding.

This is the fourth time a major breakout has occurred at the Goroka police cells in the last six months.

Provincial police commander Augustine Wampe yesterday said the circumstances surrounding the breakout were being investigated as a non-commissioned officer who was overpowered and prisoners dashed to freedom was involved in a similar incident two months ago.

Angry Highlands divisional police commander Simon Kauba has ordered Chief Insp Wampe to get to the root of the breakout.

"I am totally disappointed with the management in Goroka. If the station commander has failed, he must be suspended. Those policemen on duty must be dealt with. You either stand firm and take appropriate action or lose it. I am putting you on notice," Mr Kauba roared to Mr Wampe over the phone when this reporter visited him late yesterday.

Chief Insp Wampe said the prisoners gathered in the main cell block and broke through a secondary lock and waited for police officers on duty to open the main door between 6:30 and 7pm.

"When the lone NCO opened the door which was sealed by a screen, the prisoners who waited on the other side, rushed upon him and dashed to freedom just like what happened to him two months ago. He did not learn anything from the first incident," Mr Wampe said.

"He should not have opened that door alone. The other officers on duty were registering complaints at the main counter. The officers gave chase after the alarms were raised and apprehended two of the escapees while 28 disappeared into the dark." Mr Wampe said.

He said the NCO would bebe held responsible for the breakout.

He said nine of the escapees were remandees from Bihute jail waiting for their court warrants while the others were convicted prisoners.

Chief Insp Wampe appealed to the public to call police with information regarding the escapees.

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