Home surrounded but no sign of escapee

Police this morning surrounded a home near where a prisoner escaped, after a concerned resident heard bumps in her ceiling space.

Senior Sergeant Dave Scott, of Dunedin, confirmed a search of the Milburn property failed to find any trace of Stephen Uriah Maddren (25), who escaped from the nearby Otago Corrections Facility on Tuesday.

Dogs were also searching near the property as a precaution.

Residents were ''understandably on edge'' with the prisoner still at large, he said.

Police fear for the safety of Maddren (25), who fled from the Otago Corrections Facility with no shoes and wearing only track pants and a top.

Maddren, who has previously escaped custody, fled from the prison after he was transferred after his remand hearing in the Dunedin District Court.

Police spent yesterday searching a forestry block near the prison where Maddren was seen on Tuesday night.

There were growing concerns for Maddren's safety, but police hoped to find him alive.

Temperatures ranged between -4degC and -1degC on Tuesday night and were forecast to be between 0degC and 2degC last night, a MetService spokeswoman said.

Although police did not consider him a danger to the public, people should not approach him but instead call police on 111 if he is sighted.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call the Dunedin police on (03) 471-4800. Information can also be provided, anonymously, to the organisation Crimestoppers on 0800 555-111. 

More details emerged yesterday about Maddren's escape.

The Department of Corrections remained tight-lipped about why Maddren, who appeared in court in 2010 on charges of escaping custody, was transferred from court without restraints on Tuesday.

Labour corrections spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern questioned Corrections Minister Anne Tolley at a law and order select committee meeting yesterday about the circumstances which led to his escape.

After the meeting, Ms Ardern told the Otago Daily Times she was told Maddren escaped from custody by climbing up a downpipe on to a prison roof and jumping from a height of two or three storeys to the other side.

He was not in handcuffs at the time of his escape, she said.

Mrs Tolley and Department of Corrections chief executive Ray Smith did not deny Ms Ardern's claims.

The ODT understands Maddren was one of several prisoners being transferred from the court and was accompanied by one or two escorts.

Department of Corrections protocols state that remand prisoners should escorted by ''generally two officers''.

In an emailed statement, Mrs Tolley said an investigation into the incident would take place and ''uncover exactly what happened''.

''Such escapes are now extremely rare and I have questions about why [audiovisual links] were not used, to prevent any transport risks,'' she said.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the department could not comment on the escape until the prisoner was found as it could ''inadvertently impact on the police investigation''.

LandSAR, police staff and three police dog handlers were involved in the search yesterday.

Maddren is Caucasian, 171cm tall, and has a brown or black mullet-type hairstyle and no teeth. He was last seen wearing green track pants and a green top. 

- Hamish McNeilly and Timothy Brown

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