Prison breaker caught after 15 years

Updated: 2011-12-15 16:07


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SHIJIAZHUANG - Chinese police in northern Hebei province said Thursday they have captured a fugitive who escaped from jail in 1997 by tunneling 13 meters.

Li Junlin, 41, was arrested on December 7 after police traced his location by tapping the phone of a relative in Hebei.

He was residing with his wife and four children in the northwestern city of Yan'an -- over 1,000 kilometers from the Hebei county of Linzhang,his hometown and one of the crime scenes in which Li was allegedly involved.

He was first arrested in December 1996 as part a 13-member gang that police say had committed 22 armed robberies, one murder and over ten burglaries and rapes in several Hebei counties and in the neighboring Henan province. Four of the gang members were later convicted and executed.

In January 1997, Li was being held in a detention cell in handcuffs and shackles awaiting trial with 10 other inmates, one of whom used to be a miner. Police said the 11, using only their bare hands, dug a 13-meter tunnel from the corner of the cell to outside of the prison walls in just one night.

The other 10 fugitives were apprehended by police within three months, but Li managed to elude police for nearly 15 years.

Li said he changed his name to Liu Jun and worked at a quarry in the neighboring Shanxi province.

Eventually, he made his way to Yan'an where he married a local woman and started a family.

Authorities said Li and the other prisoners were able to escape because at the time the jail lacked surveillance cameras.