30 Dec 2009

PNG police closing in on prison escapees

10:25 am on 30 December 2009

The police in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands say they are closing in on 16 prison escapees who have been on the run for nearly five days.

Three of the 19 prisoners who escaped from Bui-iebi jail on Christmas day after playing sport with the prison guards were recaptured shortly after they had scaled the fences of the jail.

The Provincial Police Commander, Jimmy Onopia, says the inmates had noticed how exhausted the prison guards were after the activity and saw an opportunity to escape.

He says police are confident of recapturing all the escapees, who he says have committed crimes including murder, pack rape and armed robberies.

"They are being helped out by their relatives in the villages and we know some of the whereabouts of those prisoners and we are hoping to in fact close in on them within the next couple of days."

Jimmy Onopia, the Southern Highlands Police Commander, has been strongly critical of the lax security provided by the correctional services staff.