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5 Prisoners Who Escaped (And How They Did It)

5 Prisoners Who Broke Free (And How They Did It)-1

While prisons are designed to be inescapable, there are individuals who have defied the confines and orchestrated daring escapes that seem straight out of a Hollywood script. From hijacked helicopters to meticulously crafted tunnels, their stories are both thrilling and unbelievable. Let's explore the extraordinary escapes of five prisoners who managed to break free against all odds.

1. Pascal Payet: The Helicopter Hijacker

In 1997, Pascal Payet took part in an armored vehicle robbery in France, resulting in the death of a guard. In October 2001, he pulled off a daring escape from prison in which his friends picked him up from the roof using a hijacked helicopter. In 2003, Payet returned to the prison via helicopter and helped three other prisoners escape.


Payet was caught and sentenced to 30 years for the murder of the guard during the armored vehicle robbery, his prior escape, and aiding other prisoners in their escape.

Despite being closely monitored and shuffled between prisons, Payet's escapes continued. In July 2007, four masked men hijacked yet another helicopter, helping Payet escape from a prison a second time. Two months later, he was recaptured in Spain. Payet's current location remains a secret, most likely to avoid further escape attempts.


2. Richard Matt and David Sweat: The Great Dannemora Escape

On June 6, 2015, Richard Matt and David Sweat successfully escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Their escape was aided by prison tailor Joyce Mitchell, with whom both men had a sexual relationship. Mitchell provided the men with tools to aid in their escape, murder her husband, and flee to Mexico.

Matt and Sweat utilized smuggled power tools to cut holes in the back of their adjacent cells, creating an opening to a six-story-high catwalk. This catwalk granted them access to a labyrinth of pipes and tunnels, through which the men escaped. Mitchell was nowhere to be found with their getaway ride. The pursuit of the fugitives resulted in the death of Matt on June 26 and the capture of Sweat just two days later.


3. Choi Gap-bok: The Yoga Expert

In September 2012, 53-year-old South Korean man and seasoned criminal Choi Gap-bok was arrested on robbery charges. Five days later, Choi, who was an avid yoga practitioner, executed a daring escape that earned him the nickname "Korean Houdini."

With the guards asleep, Choi padded his bed to appear as though he was in it, covered himself in skin ointment, and squeezed through a tiny food slot at the bottom of his cell. It took Choi only 34 seconds to push himself through the slot, which was 5.9 inches tall and 17.7 inches wide. Six days later, he was apprehended and placed in a cell with an even tinier food slot.


4. Frank Abagnale: The Master of Deception

Frank Abagnale, the infamous con who inspired the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can," was a master of deception, engaging in bank fraud and skillfully impersonating pilots, lawyers, and doctors to elude detection and imprisonment.

In 1969, an Air France flight attendant recognized Abagnale, leading to his arrest. He endured six months each in French and Swedish prisons before being extradited to America. Upon arrival at JFK Airport, Abagnale escaped the plane but was quickly apprehended.


In 1971, Abagnale escaped a Federal Prison in Atlanta, Georgia after convincing the guards he was an undercover prison inspector working for the FBI. The guards gave him special treatment as a result and eventually, Frank walked right out of the prison.

5. Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán: The Tunnel Maestro

In the summer of 2015, Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, pulled off a remarkable escape from the most secure prison in Mexico. Disappearing through a two-by-two-foot hole in his cell's shower, he navigated a pre-dug mile-long tunnel equipped with lighting, ventilation, and a motorcycle on rails.


The escape triggered an extensive manhunt involving Mexican and U.S. law enforcement. Nearly six months later, El Chapo was captured in a fierce gun battle and later extradited to the United States. In 2019, he was convicted on drug conspiracy charges, receiving a life sentence.

References: Five Prison Escapes That Captured Public Attention | 10 Real-Life Prison Breaks That Will Blow Your Mind | 12 Craziest Prison Escapes of all Time

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