Escapee Maddren joins infamous list

Stephen Maddren last week became the first prisoner to escape Otago Corrections Facility. Reporter Timothy Brown explores his escape as well as others which have hit the headlines in the past.

When Stephen Uriah Maddren leapt from the roof of Otago Corrections Facility last week, he could not have imagined how appropriate the expression ''from here 'til next Tuesday'' would become for him.

Almost exactly a week after he escaped custody - by climbing a downpipe on to a prison roof and jumping from a height of two or three storeys to the other side - Maddren was found asleep in the hot water cupboard of a shearers' residence in Milton on Tuesday.

The Department of Corrections confirmed the 25-year-old became the first inmate to escape the prison at Milburn,which opened in May 2007, on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 3.

For the next seven days he kept police guessing as to his whereabouts, with reported sightings coming from as far afield as Clinton.

He was ultimately found 7km from the prison in a house which had not previously been checked by police.

However, his seven days on the run in and around Milton pales in comparison to the more than 4200 days spent at large and 18,500km covered by Brandon Pillay.

Pillay and another prisoner walked off from a work party from Tongariro/Rangipo Prison in Waikato in August 2001. The other prisoner was recaptured in Australia in 2006 and extradited to New Zealand to complete his prison sentence, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said.

Pillay, also known as Ricardo Pisano, had served eight months of a 15-month sentence for extortion. He resurfaced in May last year in Southampton, in England, when English police arrested him in relation to the death of openly gay Michael Polding (62), with whom Pillay had shared a flat.

He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 and a-half years' imprisonment in December last year.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said because Pillay was not recaptured in New Zealand, he remained the country's only prisoner listed as escaped and never recaptured.

Three-time escapee George Wilder - who left apology and thank you notes for his burglary victims - was one of New Zealand's most notable fugitives. In 1962, Wilder spent 65 days on the run from New Plymouth Prison, and the next year fled for 172 days from Mount Eden. His final breakout lasted only hours after he armed himself, took a hostage, then surrendered to police.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley told the Otago Daily Times earlier this week ''such escapes are now extremely rare'' and statistics back up her assessment.

During the past five years, 24 escapes (including Maddren's) from custody have been recorded by the Department of Corrections, compared with 92 for the five-year period before that - a drop of almost 75%.

The average number of days escapees spent on the run had also almost halved. Prisoners who escaped between July 2009 and June 2014 spent an average of five days on the run, compared with nine days for the five-year period before that.

Maddren's escape was the first in New Zealand since June 2012. Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust chairman Stewart Harvey said while the escape was the first in Otago since Otago Corrections Facility opened, several prisoners had escaped from its predecessor, Dunedin Prison.

Gary Victor Martin had escaped through the prison's laundry and Warren Woodley escaped from the library in the visiting room. Both were recaptured.

Looking through records of Otago's prisons revealed several prisoners had escaped from the jail which preceded Dunedin Prison, he said.

Thomas Langham had died, aged 18 or 19, after being shot when he escaped from the jail in August 1866. The Otago Witness reported Langham and another prisoner ''savagely assaulted'' warden Edward Birt before escaping by scrambling on to a shed and out of the jail.

Langham was shot by officers who tracked the pair.

Cyrus Haley was shot in October 1875 after escaping from his prison duty of quarrying stone. Warden James Millar shot and killed Haley in Moray Pl as he was heading towards a coal and timber yard near Stuart St after his escape.

By those standards, Maddren's escape and recapture was less dramatic. However, the ODT understands his escape took seconds as he scaled the downpipe and jumped from the roof barefoot and wearing only track pants and a jersey.

He survived the first night in what police described as ''hypothermic conditions''.

The story of Maddren's escape, complete with his description - toothless and with a mullet-type haircut - went global, with an account reported by The Daily Mail online in the United Kingdom.

Otago Corrections Facility manager Jack Harrison said the Department of Corrections was ''undertaking an operational review of the escape''.

''We cannot comment in more detail until the review has been completed,'' he said.

Maddren's mother, Tanya Kelso, told the ODT her son was always good at climbing and hiding as a child.

She was pleased he had been found safe and alive.

''I am really happy, really, really happy; I am so happy,'' she said earlier this week.

She hoped Maddren, who had some difficulties growing up, could change his ways.

''At the end of the day Stephen is my son,'' she said, in an emailed statement.

''And I hope Stephen will change his ways and be more honest.''

- timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

ODT/directory - Local Businesses

CompanyLocationBusiness Type
Gallery De NovoDunedinArt Galleries & Museums
Procter & McLay Mechanical 2008 LtdDunedinServicing & Mechanics
Street Legal ShoesDunedinFootwear
Pet Door Centre - Cat & Dog DoorsDunedinPets & Pet Accessories