AROUND 60 prisoners broke out from the Bomana jail yesterday afternoon, while police attention in the capital was transfixed on the international rugby league clash between the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII and the PNG PM’s XIII at Lloyd Robson Oval.
Police and Correctional Services officials confirmed the breakout, but gave varying figures of how many had escaped.
NCD metropolitan commander Chief Supt Fred Yakasa said yesterday that about 60 prisoners had broken out.
“We were informed of this breakout at 3.20pm today (yesterday). We were tied up at a security operation at the rugby league ground, and could not do much. The numbers are yet to be confirmed, what kind of prisoners broke out, how many, how dangerous they are. We should have the details tomorrow (today),” Chief Supt Yakasa said.
A Correctional Services source at Bomana said that at around lunchtime, 55 prisoners had escaped but three were recaptured.
The CS source said the escape happened due to a shortage of warders who did not turn up for their shifts due to an ongoing pay dispute.
“It is the negligence of our members,” the source said.
“We have a shortage of manpower as it is, so when staff did not turn up the inmates took advantage. “The inmates cut the fence at the back of the jail at around 12.30-1pm and because we didn’t have staff, it wasn’t for some time until we realised they were gone,” the source said.
It is understood the pay dispute relates to a shortage of funds that occurred after the CS budget was spent, allegedly on payroll staff paying themselves entitlements they were not supposed to receive.
Some of these officers allegedly involved were suspended pending an investigation ordered by Commissioner Richard Sikani.
The source also said the rugby league game between the Australians and a select PNG side might have had something to do with warders not turning up at the Bomana jail.
“Maybe some of them went to the (Kumuls) game, I don’t know but their lack of attendance was an issue in the escape,” the source said.
A number of previous prison breakouts, in Bomana and other jails in the country, remain outstanding, with grave concern being raised about security of the jails in the country.
Meanwhile, a detainee from Baisu jail in Mt Hagen was shot by police about 10am last Friday and after he and three others tried to escape from the Mt Hagen courthouse.
Police recaptured two of them while the fourth escaped. The shot detainee was admitted to hospital in a serious condition.
The prisoners, who were facing various criminal charges, had been taken by Correctional Services officers from Baisu jail to the courthouse when they tried to escape.
The prisoners were all National Court remandees.