*Main Image – Colin Blaney (top left) on Interpol’s wanted list.
It goes without saying that in the vast majority of countries, trying to escape from prison is a pretty fucking serious offence. Most governments hand out harsh sentences for jailbreaks under the logic that if they didn’t, prisoners would spend their entire sentences attempting to do a runner. I say most and not all though, as when it comes to law and order, there’s always one country that dispenses with basic commonsense and does something completely out of the box. In this case, it’s Germany.
The Germans believe it’s natural for people to want to escape when they’re confined against their will, and that it’s unfair to punish them for it. This is somewhat spurious logic, given that it’s equally natural to want to murder someone who sleeps with your wife, or makes large sums of money without expending much effort – say, by robbing a bank. Nevertheless, it means that those who wish to orchestrate a daring escape can do so with few negative consequences if it all goes pear-shaped.
Germany has a very low crime rate, and for some time, although there was the occasional jailbreak, no one had ever made a systematic attempt to exploit this law. Then along came English criminal Colin Blaney, a member of an organised crime group called the Wide Awake Firm, and regular feature on Interpol’s most-wanted list. Whilst serving a sentence in Oldenburg for a robbery, he became aware of the lack of punishment for escape, and started charging other inmates for help breaking free. He organised two successful jailbreaks, and two that didn’t work. I caught up with him to find out the details.
Transgression: How did you end up in prison in Germany?
Colin: I was in a group of travelling jewellery thieves known as the Wide Awake Firm. We travelled all over Europe and Asia, doing sneaks [burglaries relying on stealth] on jewellers. I was actually innocent of the crime that I was in doing porridge [serving a prison sentence] for when I first got into organising escapes. I was accused of stealing money from a woman’s handbag, which she had left in the backroom of a shop. The shopkeeper accused me of taking it and tried to stop me from leaving the shop, so I brushed her aside to get out, which was classed as using force. I’m not complaining, ‘cause there are millions of crimes I’ve never been caught for – just pointing out that I didn’t actually do this one!
I also organised one of the escapes that didn’t work whilst on remand for stealing a safe and ‘escaping with excessive force’. That was a charge they threw in there because we accidentally clipped some pedestrians whilst making our getaway from the scene of the crime.
Transgression: What was the first escape attempt you planned?
Colin: That was for a Romanian gypsy, who was a top armed blagger [robber]. He was doing a long sentence for a blag on a post office in Germany, and possibly looking at time in prison in Holland afterwards for another armed robbery. My cellmate was a member of his crew, and wanted him back on the streets, ‘cause he was good at what he did’. I was offered the equivalent of £750 [A$1,380] to help the guy get out.
Transgression: What did you come up with?
Colin: I knew the gypsy guy was due in court again. Shortly after getting locked up, I’d applied for bail and been turned down. On my way into the courtroom, I’d seen the guards go through a set of doors to have a smoke before walking to the front entrance to get in again. This suggested that the doors locked automatically when someone closed them. I’d also seen a similar set at the bottom of some stairs that led from where inmates were made to wait before entering the courtroom. When they went in the courtroom, their handcuffs were removed. I told the escapee-to-be that he could suddenly dart down the stairs and out the doors at that point. If he slammed them shut, they’d lock, which would mean that he couldn’t be immediately followed. I told him that he should arrange to have someone on a stolen motorbike waiting for him outside so that he could make his getaway. It worked a treat, and he’s probably still at large now.
Transgression: What about the other successful escape?
Colin: That was for a Greek guy who was caught smuggling 3 kilos of coke. He was facing deportation to Greece, where they were likely to give him between 15 and 20 years. Our kid [my brother] had a contact that could get hold of diamond-encrusted wire, which could be used to cut through metal bars. The Greek fella arranged for it to be subtly passed over to him by a girl during a visit. I had him cut through the bars with it and scale the walls using knotted-together bed sheets. He managed to make it out the prison, but was caught later and sent back.
Transgression: And the two unsuccessful ones?
Colin: The first was for a British ex-army fella, who had been caught smuggling Ecstasy from Holland to Germany. He was sharing a cell with me at the time, and stayed up all night taking E’s and playing on an Xbox. He was a moaning bastard and constantly did my head in, so I mainly tried to help him to escape to get rid of the annoying little cunt, although he also gave me 30 pills in payment, which I swapped with some bikers for some weed.
Transgression: As in Hells Angels type bikers?
Colin: Yeah, there were a lot of them in German prisons at the time. Anyway, there was a basketball hoop on the sports yard, so I came up with a plan involving that. I told him to arrange for someone to position a mattress on the other side of the prison wall, sneak onto the sports yard when no one else was on it, climb the pole attached to the hoop, and then jump over onto on to the mattress. I ripped up a prison mattress made of soft foam and told him to stuff his clothing with it in case he caught himself on the barbed wire on the wall on the way over.
Unfortunately, what with him being such a fucking idiot, he attempted to climb a lamp post instead of the pole with the hoop on. The lamp post was next to a section of roof that was piled high with barbed wire, and almost impossible to get over. He ended up getting tangled up in the wire and screamed the place down, which brought it on-top for him [got him caught].
Transgression: I guess you can’t win them all. What about the other one?
Colin: That was for a Taiwanese ‘Mr Big’ type character, who was awaiting sentencing and facing a long stint for fraud. I was in prison when I planned it out, but had managed to beat the case and get released by the time the escape actually went down. I recruited a Congolese shoplifter that I’d met in jail, who had also been released, to throw a brown banana with a piece of diamond-encrusted wire concealed in it over the wall into the yard. There was a section of the yard that was always covered in rubbish, so I figured a piece of gone-off fruit would blend in. The plan was for the Taiwanese bloke to subtly pick it up when he was allowed out for exercise, and use it to cut through the bars once he was back in his cell.
I was paid large amounts of money for this one – various 12-grand [A$22,335] instalments – and was hoping to get in with the Mr Big character once he’d got out. He was a major player with a lot of cash at his disposal. Unfortunately, the Congolese guy robbed the wire and fucked off back to the Congo with it, which ruined the plan. I was furious.
Transgression: I can imagine.
Colin: He’d been getting paid regular instalments as well. I found out later that he’d put the money towards setting up his own snide [counterfeit] clothing manufacturing operation, so when you get sold a counterfeit top, he could well be the one to blame.
Transgression: So what’s the main key to success when it comes to jailbreaks?
Colin: Plan everything out as meticulously as possible, and don’t trust shady characters like the Congolese fella!
Transgression: I take it your days of helping people escape are now behind you?
Colin: Yeah, nowadays I’m retired from the world of crime.
Transgression: Thanks, Colin. It’s been interesting.
You can find out more about Colin’s exploits by visiting his website.
Words by @Nickchesterv