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Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Inmate escapes German jail in box

By Greg Morsbach
BBC News

Generic image of a man in a box
The inmate hid in a cardboard box and was taken out of the prison by courier

A manhunt is under way in western Germany for a convicted drug dealer who escaped by mailing himself out of jail.

The 42-year-old Turkish citizen - who was serving a seven-year sentence - had been making stationery with other prisoners destined for the shops.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

The chief warden of the jail told the BBC this was an embarrassing incident.

The prison authorities in Willich, near Duesseldorf, said the man, who was tall and broad-shouldered, had hidden in a box that was about 150cm by 120cm.

For years I had been asking for more security guards from the government - but now they'll have to listen
Chief warden Beate Peters

When the weekly express courier arrived to pick up several boxes of merchandise, the one containing the prisoner was also loaded into the back of the lorry.

Shortly after it had passed through the prison gates, the inmate made his dash for freedom by cutting a big hole in the tarpaulin of the lorry and jumping off.

The driver alerted the police after he noticed the tarpaulin flapping in the breeze.

Lying low

The jail's chief warden, Beate Peters, said the man must have had accomplices outside the prison.

"As soon as the prisoner jumped off the back of the lorry his friends would have picked him up," she told the BBC.

"We have no idea where the fugitive is hiding. We assume that he is still in the county and is lying low before making his move."

Ms Peters said fellow convicts must also have known of his plan but that they would not talk because of a "code of honour" and because it is a criminal offence in Germany to help somebody escape from jail.

She said the incident showed that security needed to be beefed up urgently, something she had been lobbying for in the last few years.

"I was not surprised that an escape happened on my watch. For years I had been asking for more security guards from the government. But now they'll have to listen."

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