Escape causes fresh embarrassment for Czech prison service

The Czech prison service faced fresh embarrassment on Sunday, when one of the country's most notorious and dangerous prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison in northern Moravia. The hunt is now on for hired assassin Jiri Kajinek, who may well, police say, try to arm himself as soon as possible. Nick Carey has this report:

The past twelve months have not been good for the Czech prison service. Almost exactly a year ago, a prisoner managed to escape police custody while been transferred to a prison hospital. Instructions for a mobile phone were later discovered in a pile of potatoes that Mr. Svoboda had been peeling prior to escape, leading investigators to admit that he had arranged his escape by phone from jail.

Then came prison riots in January this year which paralysed the prison system for more than a week, when thousands of prisoners staged violent protests against massive overcrowding, poor food, inadequate clothing and new measures that were introduced to reduce the number of packages prisoners could receive. This latest escape is bound not to help either the reputation or the morale of the Czech prison service.

Hired assassin Jiri Kajinek is one of the country's most feared and dangerous prisoners. He was first sentenced to eleven years in prison in 1990 for disarming a police unit and stealing their patrol car. He was released early, and in 1993 he allegedly murdered two Czech businessmen and attempted to murder a third. After he was arrested, Mr. Kajinek then staged his first escape, whilst on his way to trial. After a nation-wide manhunt, Mr. Kajinek was eventually overpowered whilst trying to burgle an apartment in an advanced state of intoxication. After a trial that was closely followed around the country, Jiri Kajinek was sentenced in January 1999 to life in prison for the murders committed in 1993. He maintained his innocence even after he was convicted.

The ironic thing is that when he received his sentence, Jiri Kajinek very calmly told the judge that it did not matter how long his sentence was, as he would escape anyway. As he was considered to be highly dangerous, and psychologically unstable, he was sent to the Mirov maximum security prison in northern Moravia, and was placed under heavy surveillance. No-one has ever escaped from Mirov, until Sunday night, that is.

Jiri Kajinek somehow obtained tools sufficient to cut through the bars of his prison cell, and then made a break for it. Prison officers opened fire on Mr. Kajinek, but he disappeared into the night. It turns out that he has been working out in the prison gym since he arrived there, and apparently did 1,600 push-ups a day, providing him with the kind of physical condition needed to get out of Mirov, and avoid capture once outside the walls. The second nationwide hunt for Mr. Kajinek is now underway, and police say they are doing all they can to apprehend him.

The police have released a description of Jiri Kajinek, with perhaps the rather obvious information that he has close-cropped hair and is wearing a prison uniform. A police spokesman told reporters that Mr. Kajinek will no doubt try to arm himself and obtain money, and that it is dangerous to approach him. Given his resourcefulness, it is unclear how and when the police will be able to recapture him. If at all.