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Three Top Security Inmates Escape In New Jail Bungle

January 6, 1995 GMT

NEWPORT, Isle of Wight (AP) _ In mist and freezing rain Thursday, police with tracker dogs scoured this island for three of Britain’s most dangerous convicts whose escape raised yet another crisis for Prime Minister John Major’s government.

The men, including a murderer who has threatened to take revenge on those who helped convict him, broke out of the top security Parkhurst Prison on Tuesday using a duplicate key.

For the second day, hundreds of police searched isolated and abandoned buildings and trudged through fields across the 20-mile-wide island off southern England. Officers studied security videotapes at the island’s ports, which include the fashionable yachting resort of Cowes.


Fears grew that the three men may have slipped by boat or ferry across the Solent, a five-mile-wide strait, to the mainland. They had been out for two hours before guards raised the alarm.

The latest prison service bungle further embarrassed Major’s Conservative government, which had hoped to bolster its sagging popularity in part through a tough new anti-crime program.

The Parkhurst breakout followed rioting at a north England jail, and the apparent suicide at a central England jail on Sunday of one of the most notorious suspected serial killers, Frederick West.

Earlier, an inquiry into an armed breakout by six Irish Republican Army guerrillas from another English jail, Whitemoor, in September revealed a regime of pampering and lax security, with prisoners virtually in charge of their unit.

Opposition lawmakers called again for the resignation of Home Secretary Michael Howard, who is responsible for the prison service.

``It is time he was replaced by someone prepared to get a grip on the situation and put the system under effective control,″ the Liberal Democratic Party’s law and order spokesman, Alan Beith, said.

Parkhurst is one of six top security facilities in England and its 216 inmates include vicious criminals.

Fugitive Keith Rose, 45, has said he will get even with those who got him jailed for life in 1991 for murdering a supermarket tycoon’s wife whom he kidnapped.

Another escapee, Andrew Rodger, 44, was a burglar who battered a night watchman to death.

The third, Matthew Williams, 25, was a science student serving life after being convicted of charges including conspiracy to cause explosions, arson and administering poison in a three-year campaign of destruction. ``I hate people ... I intend to destroy them all,″ he wrote in his diary.