NSW police could be tracking the illicit phone that escaped prisoner Beau Wiles used to post semi-naked selfies online – and secure his get-away ride.
The minimum-security inmate fled into a waiting black Commodore when he made his break from a work yard outside the Goulburn Correctional Centre’s security perimeter on Wednesday morning.
Just six hours later another man escaped Corrective Services’ custody.
Thirty-three-year-old Ali Hussein Chahine leapt over the dock at Sydney’s busy Downing Centre District Court, assaulting two sheriffs before fleeing the building and jumping on a bus.
Both men remained at large on Thursday afternoon.
As friends and family members plead for 25-year-old Wiles to turn himself in, authorities are investigating how he managed to gain access to a mobile phone and post status updates and pictures to his Facebook page from behind bars.
Those entries include photographs posted on Monday that show Wiles in nothing but a cap and underpants.
NSW Corrective Services Minister David Elliott told reporters on Thursday he had brought forward the introduction of a scanner, already earmarked for Goulburn, that is capable of detecting coin-sized mobile phones hidden in body cavities.
He has also promised to fast-track a request to the federal communications watchdog ACMA to allow phone-jamming technology to be brought in at Goulburn.
“I’m bringing forward reforms and I’ve made it very very clear to corrections, to the commissioner and to the senior management, that we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” Mr Elliott said.
He wouldn’t details efforts to track down Wiles, adding: “Who’s suggested that the police aren’t tracking the phone?”
Meanwhile, Chahine, who is due to be sentenced in December on ice supply, proceeds of crime and driving charges, committed those offences whilst out on parole.
He was in court on Wednesday for a detention application after he breached his bail, and made his escape after Judge Andrew Scotting determined he should be taken back into custody.
Mr Elliott said there was it was standard court protocol that prisoners are not handcuffed when they are in a courtroom, but that this was managed at judicial officers’ discretion.
But in a statement the District Court said Judge Scotting had not been informed of any specific risk posed by Chahine.
“Mr Ali Chahine was sitting in the dock for the hearing and was not handcuffed,” a spokeswoman said.
“Any risk the accused may have posed was not communicated to Judge Scotting by Corrective Services.”
Police have also told media it took Corrective Services 30 minutes to notify police of Chahine’s escape, but that the delay was unlikely to have made a difference.
Prison officials under pressure
NSW prison officials are under renewed pressure after losing two men in one day.
Convicted shoplifter Beau Wiles, 25, was the first to flee custody, at about 10am on Wednesday, by escaping from a work yard outside the main security perimeter at Goulburn Correctional Centre.
Just six hours later, another man fled Corrective Services’ custody at Sydney’s busy Downing Centre Local Court.
Police say Ali Hussein Chahine, 33, had been charged with drug supply offences and was in court answering bail breach allegations when he leapt from the dock, assaulted two corrective officers and fled the building barefoot.
It is Wiles’ escape from Goulburn that has attracted the most attention.
The prison, better known as Goulburn Supermax, had its first break-out in 19 years last month, when a maximum security inmate allegedly scaled the prison’s walls using bedsheets, a blanket and a broomstick.
The incident sparked two major reviews of security at Goulburn, which is considered Australia’s most secure jail.
Corrective Services Minister David Elliott said there were few parallels between the two break-outs.
“Today’s incident was a minimum-security inmate, trusted to work in a minimum-security environment,” Mr Elliot told AAP on Wednesday.
“He had 10 months to go, he was low risk, he was incarcerated for shoplifting, and it just does not make sense that an inmate with so little time to go … has now exposed himself to an extended sentence of up to two years for escaping lawful custody, and two years for the contraband that it appears he’s had exposure to.”
Wiles appears to have been active on Facebook while serving his 18-month sentence for shoplifting and driving offences.
Just two days ago, a post appeared that showed him posing in his underpants and was captioned: “Love u my my princess (sic).”
Another Facebook user purporting to be his sister, Angel McBride, wrote: “Brother please hand ur self in to police now … beau they will kill u shoot u dead please bro go back to police now please I beg u beau (sic).”
Mobile phones are contraband in NSW prisons and there is no internet access from computers, a Corrective Services NSW spokesman said.
Mr Elliott said the Facebook account may not be run by Wiles, but his department is investigating.
He is yet to release the results of the Goulburn security reviews.
“But what I can say is that Goulburn jail is a prison that was built for another era,” he said.
“It was built before a lot of this new technology that we’re finding prisoners are getting their hands on was even thought of. Goulburn jail has been, certainly, a victim of mission creep – the infrastructure there and the technology there does need to be refreshed.”
Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Wednesday’s incident was the fourth break-out statewide since Mr Elliott took on the portfolio in April.
“One prisoner escaping from a NSW prison is an unfortunate incident; four is a disturbing pattern,” Mr Foley told reporters.