29 Dec 2009

More criticism of PNG prison guards following Southern Highlands mass breakout

4:37 pm on 29 December 2009

16 prisoners who escaped from Papua New Guinea's Bui-iebi jail in the Southern Highlands on Christmas Day remain at large.

Three were recaptured soon after the mass escape.

The 19 inmates, who've been described as hard core criminals, had been playing sport with prison officers just before the escape.

The Southern Highlands Provincial Police Commander, Jimmy Onopia, says the inmates had noticed how exhausted the prison guards were after the activites and used the opportunity to escape.

He says they climbed the razor fence after removing their prison clothing and using them as padding.

He says the correctional services' staff then failed to alert police about the break out.

"We were alerted by a woman who was on a public street, who saw what was actually happening and gave us a call on her mobile phone. Police got in there about twenty five minutes later and managed to capture only three. Sixteen of the prisoners are still at large. But we know their whereabouts and we are closing in. We are expecting to make some arrests very shortly."

Jimmy Onopia says the reaction of the correctional services staff was very poor and says there should've been tighter security.