August was early release month. At Stocken prison it took an unexpected formby Peter Wayne / October 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
The minister of Finkin Street Methodist Chapel, Grantham, is a truly Victorian character in the grand oratorical mode. One morning, early in August, he was waxing as long as ever. I was sitting at the organ console wondering whether my choice of Sullivan’s Brightly Gleams Our Wedding Morn as an introductory voluntary had been the most appropriate start to the day’s proceedings. Still, there were always the coffee and biscuits to come.
As the prayers came to a close, the back doors of the prison chapel flew open. “All inmates back to the wings immediately,” a security screw announced to the startled congregation. The long awaited biscuits lay uneaten on their plates in the vestry while we were marched back along the corridor for an emergency roll check. Interruptions of this kind on a Sunday morning mean only one thing. Someone had, as they say, “had it away.”
There had been no escapes from Stocken this year. With fences recently metal clad and doubly razor-wired, prison security seemed assured. But as the grim-faced officer who locked me in my cell told me that not one but three prisoners had taken leave of their sentences, it became apparent that the copy book had just been blotted.
“Looks as though they had outside help. Someone must have been up in the middle of the night and cut an ‘ole in the fence out on the field.”
Seconds later I heard the sound of helicopter rotor blades. Earlier in the week, I had watched spellbound as the television programme, Police, Camera, Action had revealed the secrets of airborne thermal imaging capacity, and indeed Leicestershire was, I believe, the first police force in the country to deploy these heat seeking devices in pursuit of fugitives. The errant rogue does not stand a hope in hell’s chance once those beams are pointed in his direction. Yet somehow, the ex-inmates eluded their pursuers.
According to a local news bulletin, Lady Willoughby de Eresby, hosting the Grimsthorpe castle game fair only a stone’s throw away from Stocken, might have unwittingly provided the perfect cover for the three on the run. At any rate, they vanished without trace, possibly into the throngs of people crowded into the grounds of Vanbrugh’s baroque masterpiece.
At least the incident put paid to the rest of the day’s internal drug trafficking. Frustrated to the point of explosion, the 397 prisoners left…