PNG’s top crim escapes in mass breakout
Papua New Guinea’s most dangerous underworld figure has escaped from jail in a mass breakout of the country’s toughest criminals, only days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in the country.
William Kapris fled Port Moresby’s Bomana prison on Tuesday morning in a Toyota truck after one warder was taken hostage and a woman posing as a lawyer pulled a gun on guards. A total of 12 prisoners escaped.
Kapris has been accused of a string of high-profile bank robberies, rape, a plane hijacking and the alleged murder of a police officer.
Before being captured in 2008 he had been on the run for eight years after escaping police detention while convalescing at Port Moresby General Hospital.
Last year Australian Federal Police assisting PNG police with a kidnapping intercepted mobile telephone calls to Kapris, who allegedly masterminded the kidnapping from his Bomana cell.
Port Moresby police commander Fred Yakasa told PNG’s Post-Courier he feared a crime spree now “the country’s most wanted and dangerous criminals had escaped”.
“They are probably out with a serious mission,” he said. “Communities can anticipate spates of criminal activities.”
PNG is plagued by continual prison mass breakouts due to lax security, corruption, lack of political will and pay disputes involving warders.
But the latest breakout could not come at a worse time, with Clinton arriving in Port Moresby on Thursday as part of her South Pacific tour, which also takes in New Zealand and Australia.
An unnamed US embassy official told PNG’s National newspaper the country was rated a “high-security risk” due to poor border control. Officially, however, the detailed and tight security measures in place for the visit are described as “normal US diplomatic protocol”.
“If a schedule is leaked out, it will be immediately changed,” an official said.
Acting PNG police commissioner Tom Kulunga said more than 150 hard-core criminals had escaped from PNG jails in the past 12 months, including 40 from Bomana last October.
Earlier this month business leader Jason Tan was shot outside his home several weeks after PNG’s anti-corruption boss, Chronox Manek, survived a similar murder attempt.