American Murder Suspect Tries to Escape

One of two Americans charged with the murder of Andre Heckmair in Windhoek in 2011, yesterday tried to escape from top-security Windhoek Central Prison where he and his co-accused are awaiting trial for murder.

The Deputy Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services, Tuhafeni Hangula told New Era yesterday at around 14h20 that the attempted escape was still under investigation.

“We are still trying to establish what happened,” said the Deputy Commissioner of Prisons.

Hangula said Thomas’ first movement was detected by the security system at around 05h45 on Monday morning. But, citing first hand sources, Hangula said Marcus Thomas escaped from his cell by sawing through a window frame.

He cut a blanket which he used as a rope to make his way to the roof before making his way down the roof at an area that covers the prison workshop. On the roof was a grill door which he also sawed. Thomas squeezed himself underneath the gate of the workshop where he escaped, Hangula explained.

Hangula further explained the prison facility has several barbed fence parameters.

“He left the first fence parameter by going underneath the gate of the workshop,” said Hangula. He then moved to the second fence parameter where he was spotted by a member (correctional officer) who was reporting for duty, Hangula explained.

Well-placed sources say the 31-year-old American apparently climbed onto a tree closest to the fence which is about three to four meters high.

In an attempt to leap from the tree over the high barbed wire fence one prison official saw him and distracted his plan.

“When I saw him on the tree I picked up a brick to threaten him and asked him “where are you going?” and he replied “I’m going.” I asked again “where are you going” and again he replied “I’m going”, the official narrated to onlookers who were mainly officers at the prison. In his quest to get over the fence, Thomas defied the official’s distraction and jumped from the tree. But, his jump did not produce enough power and he tangled his foot in between the top wires.

The inmate hung helplessly with his head down against the fence for about two hours before being rescued by personnel of the Windhoek Fire Brigade. He sustained several cuts to his arms, face, neck, hands and right foot.

“If he had not heard the member (prison official) saying don’t go he could have jumped over. He is hurt because fear gripped him while trying to jump otherwise he could have escaped,” said one prison official. “It’s just that he was scared of the people he could have escaped,” said another prison official.

Unofficial sources at the scene said Thomas’ attempted escape was an inside job.

When asked if Thomas’ attempted escape was an inside job, Hangula said he has “no clue.” “We are trying to establish if it’s an inside job or not.” There was also speculation some lawyers could have abetted Thomas’ attempted escape “because they are the ones who visit him the most,” said a source at the scene.

At the scene where Thomas was caught, was a bag pack containing a dismantled saw, a map of Windhoek and Swakopmund, a pen, a mobile phone (cellphone), eye spectacles and documents amongst other things were found. One of Thomas’ socks was hanging on the fence while several drops of blood was seen on the cement pavement where the fence is attached.

His shoe and jean trouser that stripped off as he was being assisted was also at the scene.

Hangula maintained the Windhoek Central Prison’s security system is “intact”.

He blamed correctional officers on duty for being negligent and not attending to the alarms that were triggered by Thomas’ movements .

“To be honest with you the security systems are intact. It’s just a matter of informing our members (correctional officers) to be more security conscious particularly for the festive season. History has taught us that a lot of these incidences happen when approaching the festive season because the criminals want to be with their loved ones,” Hangula added.

Thomas and his co-accused Kevin Townsend stand accused for the murder of Heckmair, the son of the previous owners of the Cattle Baron Steak Ranch by shooting him in an assassin-style in the back of his head on January 7, 2011 in Gusinde street, Eros in Windhoek.

Thomas will appear in court today for atempting to escape from lawfulcustody.

Source : New Era