Drug trafficker makes an escape from prison through sewerage pipes. For most, it is the plot of a Hollywood movie. For one drug trafficker on death row in Indonesia, it was a very real and daring break from captivity which has so far worked.
Cai Changpan – also known as Cai Ji Fan – had been incarcerated in Tangeran Prison on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, after being sentenced to death in 2017 for trafficking 135 kilograms of crystal meth. Local sources reported at the time that 70 kilograms of said meth was hidden in chicken coop cleaner equipment.
According to Cai’s cellmate, the Chinese national had been planning his incredible escape for five to six months. He obtained a crowbar, chisel, screwdriver and other tools whilst building work was being carried out to a prison kitchen and used them to dig a narrow 50cm wide, 30 metre long tunnel which connected his cell with waste pipes.
In something which resembled the Shawshank Redemption, Cai then timed his jailbreak to coincide with the changing of the guards. He crawled down the tunnel and through the sewerage pipes, exiting via a drain to complete his escape from prison. Cai’s cellmate declined to join him in the jailbreak.
CCTV footage captured the moment that Cai emerged from the pipe network, before disappearing down a dark alleyway. Cai remains on the run with Indonesian police putting him at the top of their most wanted list.
Remarkably, this is not the first time that Cai has escaped from prison. In January 2017, he crawled out of a bathroom via a hole made in the wall using an iron rod. Cai then scaled a 2.5 metre tall fence, only to be recaptured three days later.
Prison breaks are not uncommon in Indonesia due to the fact that most prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. In 2018, 90 inmates escaped a jail after tearing down a fence during a prayer gathering.
Cai’s case has made headlines due to the meticulous planning that went into it. There have been similar breakouts in the past, including when four escapees dug a tunnel out of Bali’s notorious Kerobokan Jail in 2017.
Bulgarian Dimitar Nikolov and Indian Sayed Muhammad were both captured a week later. Australian Shaun Edward Davidson and Malaysian Tee Kok King have never been found. Whose footsteps will Cai follow in?