fugitives help prison mates to ESCAPE, cops

THE Kwazulu-Natal police yesterday linked the recent jailbreaks from the Westville and Newcastle prisons to a sophisticated network of criminals who have inside connections in prisons.

It is believed that the syndicate is linked to a range of serious crimes, including murders, robberies and hijackings.

They use luxury cars to make their getaway from crime scenes and even in their escapes from jails.

Last month nine suspects made a run for it from the Westville Prison. Two were rearrested and one killed.

The remaining six are still on the run and are believed to be behind a similar escape from the Newcastle Prison last week.

Reports reveal that the Westville gang escaped in a luxury BMW.

They used bedlinen to make a rope, clambered down six floors and escaped after cutting through the prison fence.

Soon after the incident nine prison warders on duty at the time were suspended and a hearing conducted by the Department of Correctional Services is at present under ways.

A senior police detective confirmed that the Westville gang was positively linked to the Newcastle jailbreak. The Newcastle suspects escaped after holding prison guards up at gunpoint.

Detectives are still trying to establish how the weapons were smuggled to the suspects. But the quick response of the police led to the re-arrest of three inmates. They are expected to appear in court today.

Police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge said: "The men escaped during visiting time through the opening made for parcels. It's not clear how the guns landed in their hands.

"The prisoners abandoned the vehicles and ran away but the police apprehended three men. One is still at large."

Mdunge is adamant police will soon crack the syndicate.

"It's clear the prisoners are being assisted by the criminals outside and inside jail,."

Mdunge would not rule out the possibility that Correctional Services officers might have colluded with the Newcastle escapees.

He said police were searching for the seven gang members still at large.

The rearrested suspects from Newcastle - Musa Mabe, Ntsikelelo Mathebula and Sihlangu Nzima - have been removed to a secret location.

"The Department of Correctional Services is waiting for a full report from the provincial authorities," spokesperson Mannelisi Wolela said.