Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 6 News List

South Africa launches manhunt after `slippery' criminal escapes second time

THE OBSERVER , JOHANNESBURG

One of the biggest manhunts South Africa has ever seen was under way over the weekend as police searched for Ananias Mathe -- "the devil's child."

South Africa's most dangerous criminal and the country's most slippery prisoner made a dramatic escape from prison last week, apparently by smearing his body with petroleum jelly and squeezing through a tiny window.

But doubts have now been thrown on the official account of the daring escape by Mathe, 27, who faces 51 charges for crimes including murder, rape, armed robbery and hijacking, from the highest-security wing of Pretoria's C-Max prison -- a jail from which no one had ever escaped in its 36-year history.

Sources close to the case believe he must have had inside help. Mathe had already fled police custody once last year and it took police nine months before they tracked him down. As a result they put him in a special cell.

Yet Mathe managed to free himself from handcuffs, strip and cover himself with Vaseline, pry out a bulletproof window and slither through the 8in by 23in hole.

During their scramble to catch Mathe, police have made two arrests -- one man was found not to be Mathe, but was charged with possession of marijuana anyway. Another look-alike was shot in the leg when he tried to run away from a police ambush -- the Reverend Motlotlo Rabotapi.

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