David Miller of Kidd Rapinet Solicitors has reminded me of the safe breaker Alfie Hinds’ escape from the Law Courts in June 1957, which must be one of a kind, writes James Morton.
While serving 12 years for the Maples robbery, Hinds sued the Prison Commissioners, alleging wrongful arrest following his earlier escape from Nottingham prison. When he was taken for a hearing for directions before Master Grundy two prison officers escorted him to the lavatory near the Bear Garden. But when the officers removed his handcuffs, Hinds padlocked the warders inside, with help from his brother Albert and his then friend Tony Maffia. Hinds escaped into Fleet Street and off to Waterloo, but he was recognised and caught at Bristol airport five hours later while waiting for a plane to Dublin.
In August that year – which shows how swift justice was then – Maffia and Albert Hinds each received 12 months. Hinds’ third attempt, from Chelmsford Prison less than a year later, was successful. This time he stayed out for two years, still maintaining his innocence.
My own clients’ escapes were much less spectacular and not very successful. Several who tried to break out of Brixton failed in their attempts. Their defence, that they were later acquitted of robbery, so were being wrongly held and therefore were entitled to try to escape, got them nowhere!
After a failed bail application another client managed to get out of his cell at Lambeth magistrates’ court and was over the roof and away; but it is often easier to escape than to stay out and he was easily retrieved.
Another disastrous attempt was made by two due at Hampstead magistrates’ court for a remand hearing one summer morning. For some reason there was no one to greet the prison van and the officer in charge left them handcuffed together on the pavement while he went to find someone who would open the door to the cells. The temptation was too much, and off they galloped towards the high street with the officer in full pursuit.
Apparently they were putting some distance between themselves and their pursuer when they came to a lamppost. ‘Right!’ said Tom, ‘Left!’ said Bob and the escape ended in a collision and mutual recriminations. There was no application for bail that day.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor