3 Prisoners Escape From Cook Islands Prison; 2 Give Themselves Up Next Day

Remaining escapee tries to swim away from police; apprehended when he tired

By Cameron Scott 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 19, 2016) – Two prisoners who escaped from the maximum security block at Arorangi Prison last Tuesday night returned to prison the following morning and gave themselves up.

The third escapee was apprehended in the early hours Wednesday morning after swimming out into the channel at Avarua Harbour in an attempt to evade police.

Inspector John Strickland of the Cook Islands Police Service revealed details of the escape yesterday, in response to questions from CI News.

A story about the episode appeared on page one of CI News on Saturday, after a member of the public who became caught up in the incident reported it to the newspaper.

However, CI News was unable to get confirmation of the incident from police before the paper went to print on Friday evening.

The man, who was threatened by one of the escapees with a weapon after he tried to prevent him from stealing a motorcycle from the man’s home near the prison, said he was concerned that no-one had been  informed about the escape, which could have put peoples’ lives in danger. However, Ministry of Justice secretary Tingika Elikana said none of the escapees were considered dangerous, and Prison Services had left it to the police to notify the public about the incident.

Strickland said that after being alerted about the escape, police had made announcements about the escape on Cook Islands Television, running photos of the trio together with details of their appearance. The escapee who had stolen a motorcycle had swum out into the channel off Trader Jacks, from where he had taunted police for about an hour.

“We waited and let him get tired, then a prison officer swam out and grabbed him.”

“In the meantime, a police team were looking for the other two. They must have realised that many people would be looking for them, because they gave themselves up at the prison the following morning.”

Elikana said prison superintendent Henry Heather notified him that the three inmates had escaped at around 11.00pm on Tuesday.

By the time he arrived at the prison, the police had already been alerted and had assembled a search team, he said.

“I informed the Minister of Justice by text of the escape. None of the escaped prisoners were classified as dangerous by the prison staff,” Elikana said.
“Security personnel at tourist accommodation in the area were also advised.

“A search was mounted that evening and at around 1.26am, one of the escaped inmates was apprehended.

“At around 7.30am the other two escaped prisoners surrendered to one of the senior prison officers and were escorted back to prison. I texted the minister and informed him of the development.”

Elikana said the prisoners, who were being held in the maximum security block area, managed to escape by scaling up the wall and managed to open the window linking the block with the guard room.

They had then got through the window in the guard room onto the concrete roof of the prison and had run along the top of the wall.

“They scaled down the outside wall and escaped, but were seen by one of the inmates who alerted a prison warden.” At the time of the escape only two wardens were on duty, Elikana said.

“One was keeping watch on the rest of the prisoners who were in the recreational area watching TV and the other was doing the security checks on inmates remaining in their cells.

“This means that the guard room was unmanned, which allowed the inmates to progress their escape through the guards’ room.

“In an ideal world with sufficient resources, the guardroom would have to be manned 24/7. If that had been the case the escape would not have been successful.

“This is the first escape from within prison in a long time.

“We have reviewed prison security and are in the process of installing wire mesh on the window used by the inmates for escaping.”

After advising police about the escape, Prison Services had left it to them to notify the public of the escape, Elikana said.

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2016 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

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