Skip to main content

The great escape

How to break out of prison in style

The Kray twins. Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty

“Poor old Daniel Khalife,” says Mark Mason in The Spectator. His recent exit from HMP Wandsworth, hidden underneath a delivery van, didn’t even secure “Most Creative Prison Escape of the Week”. That had to go to Danelo Cavalcante, who broke out of Pennsylvania’s Chester County prison by “crab-walking” up two walls which lined a narrow passageway, wedging himself between them by putting his hands on one and his feet on the other. (He has since been recaptured.) Khalife’s jailbreak isn’t even “the most inventive in Wandsworth’s history”: in 1965, Ronnie Biggs got out with the help of an outside team, which parked a van equipped with a platform lift next to the prison wall.

The most impressive prison breaks rely on considerable cunning. The South Korean robber Choi Gap-bok was a yoga expert, which meant that, “after applying skin lotion to himself”, he was able to squeeze through the 6x18in slot used to deliver food through his cell door. “The young Kray twins once took advantage of the ‘twins’ bit when Ronnie was inside and Reggie was free: the latter visited the former, put on his glasses and stayed there while Ronnie walked calmly away.” And Michael Vaujour’s 1986 escape from a Paris prison was aided by grenades with which he threatened officers. “Except they weren’t grenades. They were objects he’d painted to look like grenades. Specifically, they were nectarines.”