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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 06:44 GMT
Convict to break fugitive record
Verne Prison, Dorset
John Hannan was sentenced to 21 months
An inmate who escaped from a Dorset jail is about to enter the record books.

If John Hannan continues to evade capture on Friday, he will have been on the run longer than any other prisoner in the world.

In 1955, John Hannan was sentenced to 21 months in Verne Prison on the island of Portland for car theft and assaulting two police officers.

He escaped with another inmate by using knotted sheets.


Continual checks are made making life extremely difficult for the individual concerned

Inspector Tony Rudd, Portland Police
When John Hannan was sentenced, Verne was known as the "prison without bars".

His escape, a month into his sentence, was a relatively easy matter.

Mike Cook, the current governor, said: "We think it was the knotted sheet trick.

"The wall in 1955 was probably a little lower that it is today, but I think it was probably feasible to get the knotted sheets, throw it over and just up and over and away."

Hannan escaped with another inmate.

Wearing grey prison overalls, they made their way along the railway line that used to run to the mainland.

A tracker dog lost their scent near the Portland naval base.

Wanted man

The pair broke into a petrol station and stole beer, cigarettes and overcoats.

Former mechanic at the garage Norman Hounsell said: "We found the toilet window open, which was a very small one and that was the only way he could have got into the garage.

garage forecourt
The scene at the petrol station in 1955

"All he had to do was pull the bolt on the door and he could have had anything he wanted."

John Hannan's companion was recaptured. Hannan, if he is alive, remains a wanted man.

Inspector Tony Rudd of Portland Police said the investigation is still continuing.

He said: "Continual checks are made making life extremely difficult for the individual concerned and indeed for their family and friends."

The great escape record is currently held by an American, Leonard Frisco.

He spent 45 years and 11 months on the run before being turned in by his son.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | England
Runaway prisoner turns himself in
15 Oct 01 | England
Escaped prisoners recaptured
01 Oct 01 | England
Three escaped convicts captured
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