Buckley's Chance Of Staying Out, Yet Prisoners Continue To Escape From Jail

"Nearly everybody gets caught and there's nothing glamourous about going back to jail".

What you need to know
  • Prisoners who escape from jail risk adding several years to their sentence
  • Most are caught within days and put back behind bars
  • Ten daily spoke to one of Australia's most notorious fugitives about life on the run

This week there's been a lot of talk about prisoners on the run, and inmates moments away from 'freedom'.

From a Shawshank Redemption style attempt at escape, to a national manhunt for ten Aussie cons on the run -- prisoners continue to attempt to evade the system.

John Killick is arguably Australia's most notorious jailbird escapee and has been watching on as these prisoners make headlines. He said he understands their plight.

"People get depressed when they are herded in together - you know some are sleeping on mattresses on floors. They've done experiments with rats. When rats are crowded they act irrationally, they started to get aggressive and started attacking the walls," Killick told ten daily.

Australia's prisons are bursting at the seams, and our prisoner population continues to increase.  

"So it's the same with human beings and they start really feeling like they need to get out of there, no matter what," he said.

The bank robber spent 45 days on the run in 1999, after his lover Lucy Dudko hijacked a helicopter to get him out of a maximum security jail. 

Killick and Dudko spent 45 days on the run. IMAGE: Supplied.

He told ten daily he is "no idol" but rather, a "cautionary tale". 

"Some of the younger ones see me as some sort of hero and that's not the case at all. I have spent a long time in jail and you don't want to go down the way I went," Killick said.

Now a free man after spending 30 years behind bars, Killick has written about his notorious helicopter prison breakout in his book The  Last Escape. 

"I did know it would work, I never had any doubt that Lucy would do it. I knew her and what she was capable of and we'd been a team for three years so I knew she'd go ahead and do it," he told ten daily.

It was a crime of passion, but Killick said life on run was no easy feat.

"If it seems glamorous in the movies it's nothing like that in real life, it's a pretty traumatic thing. You're always aware that somebody could recognise you at any moment. "

Killick was caught each time and returned to jail where his sentence was lengthened.

Over the past decade, prisoners continue to find a way out -- most commonly from low security prisons and most frequently in NSW.

SOURCE: Productivity Commission's annual Report on Government Services 2018

Queensland Corrective Services told ten daily, "of these escapes, all prisoners have been recaptured".

And Victoria Corrective Services added that it was "usually within a few days", although one prisoner managed to evade police for more than three weeks.

In other words, these felons have 'buckley's chance' of succeeding. In fact, the phrase 'buckley's chance' is attributed to William Buckley, an early settler who escaped prison and lived among Indigenous Australians for several years.

"There's nothing heroic about this crime you always get caught, well most of the time. Nearly everybody gets caught and there's nothing glamourous about going back to jail," said Killick.

Dr Carolyn McKay from the Sydney Institute of Criminology has spent time working in jails.

"It's pretty amazing some still manage to get out. I have gone into prisons for some legal research and it's very hard, the process to get in. So I'm surprised that some can get out, even as a lawyer it takes quite a long process to exit the jail"

She said there is a wide range of offences in NSW associated with escaping a prison, or aiding the escape of a prisoner.

"For example attempting to rescue an inmate you could face up to 14 years. If you aide an inmate its up for seven years," she said.

Killick said what he did was "extreme" and "shortsighted".

"People could have been killed there's no doubt about that when they shot the helicopter they could have brought it down and people would have been killed."

Killick was sentenced to 14 years' jail and Dudko got eight years for the helicopter escape.

He said he was naive to believe he would start a new life abroad.

"I thought that if we'd lay low for long enough we could get past the police and get out to South America or somewhere but it didn't happen the man hunt was much more extensive than I thought," he said.