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Fri, Nov 09, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Escape case could be solved soon

ACCOMPLICES Investigators are closing in on four men who helped a jewel robber escape from prison and expect to identify the officials who assisted them

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Investigators expect to shortly arrest the four men who helped jewel robber Chen Ching-ke (陳清課) escape from prison.

Chen, nicknamed "No Problem," was serving an 18-year sentence at Taipei Prison for three jewellery robberies. He escaped on the night of Sept. 11 as he was being escorted out of the Military 804 Hospital in Taoyuan (桃園), where he had received treatment for his eyes. He was recaptured on Wednesday night.

As Chen was being escorted by two prison officials to a waiting prison vehicle, four men armed with knives appeared and bundled Chen into a getaway car, which drove off at high speed.

Investigators suspect that some officials at the prison may have secretly helped Chen during his escape.

"We strongly suspect that Chen paid the guards to help him escape," said Yang Ting-hung (楊挺宏), a prosecutor at Taoyuan District Prosecutors' Office. "We have focused on certain guards but I think everything will become clear when we catch those four men who helped him at the hospital."

Investigators say they have identified the four men who seized Chen from his prison guards and will begin to arrest them soon.

Once the four have been caught, the investigators say, they should be able to quickly identify the officials who collaborated in the escape.

After Chen escaped he moved around Taiwan, visiting Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu (新竹), Changhua (彰化) and finally Taitung (台東).

Police arrested him on Wednesday night at the Rainbow Bridge (長虹橋), a famous scenic spot in Hualien County (花蓮), with three friends, who were arrested on suspicion of concealing a suspect

A Criminal Police Bureau task force said that Chen was using a pre-paid cellphone card to avoid leaving clues when contacting people, even before his escape. Establishing how Chen got the pre-paid card and the cell phone will be one of the task force's main concerns when they question him.

Chen had evaded capture twice before he was arrested.

On one occasion a police officer searching for Chen came face-to-face with him in Taipei's Neihu (內湖) district where he is said to have lived temporarily, police said. He was allegedly arranging another robbery. Chen apparently recognized the officer first and walked away quickly before the officer recognized him.

Chen later admitted to police that he was planning to rob another two jewellery stores to get some money for future smuggling operations to China.

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