Chinese inmate pulls Shawshank Redemption-esque escape from Indonesian prison by digging tunnel over 8 months

The tunnel (Left) that death row inmate Cai Chang Pan (Right) dug over 8 months for his escape. Photos: Tangerang Penitentiary
The tunnel (Left) that death row inmate Cai Chang Pan (Right) dug over 8 months for his escape. Photos: Tangerang Penitentiary

Authorities in Indonesia are on the hunt for a Chinese inmate whose prison escape came straight out of the playbook of Andy Dufresne in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, albeit much faster than the 19 years it took the fictional character.

Death row inmate Cai Chang Pan, who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking, was declared missing from his cell at a prison in Tangerang on Monday. Upon searching his cell, prison officials found on the floor an entrance to a 30 meter long tunnel that led all the way to a sewer. The 53-year-old managed to hide the 1.5 meter wide tunnel entrance with his bed, because a Raquel Welch poster wouldn’t have worked.

“Every night he worked on the tunnel from 10pm to 5am. Looking at it, he would move his bed and dig the tunnel, and afterwards he would cover [the entrance] with the bed. He did that for eight months,” Jakarta Metro Police spokesman Yusri Yunus told reporters yesterday.

A CCTV footage from outside the prison shows the moment Cai emerging from the sewer before walking away towards freedom.

Cai reportedly used tools that he managed to steal from the construction of a kitchen at the prison.

Now officially declared a fugitive, police say Cai took his cellmate’s cell phone before his escape, which was later recovered in the possession of his wife and children, who he had visited shortly after his escape. Cai’s cellmate reportedly refused to escape with Cai, fearing the consequences.

Police believe there was an 11-hour gap between Cai’s escape and when prison officials found him missing from his cell, which allowed the fugitive to put a lot of distance between himself and the prison. It’s likely that Cai is currently hiding in the woods in Bogor’s Tenjo district, near where his family lives.

The police have promised an IDR100 million (US$6,715) reward for anyone who’s able to capture the fugitive.

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