A prisoner who managed to escape from prison in Wortel in Antwerp province through a hole in his cell wall has been recaptured.
The man and two others with whom he shared the cell created the hole, measuring some 40cm by 30cm, without being noticed by guards. In the middle of the night of Friday to Saturday they exited through the hole, then tried to climb over the four-metre fence surrounding the prison yard.
One man made it to the outside. Another tried but failed. The third man was recaptured before he could even make it to the fence.
Both men were placed in solitary confinement to await a disciplinary procedure. Trying to escape from prison is not a crime in Belgium; they may be punished by loss of privileges, but will not receive an extended sentence.
In the night of Saturday to Sunday, the third man was caught by Dutch police in Nijmegen, just over 100km away from the prison. He is a Tunisian national, in Belgium illegally, and serving five years for theft. He has been one of the 295 prisoners locked up in Wortel for the last two years. Most of the men are serving similar longer sentences, though none are considered dangerous.
He was caught after a failed search in the vicinity of the prison, when he was busy committing new thefts in Nijmegen. Like his cellmates, he will be subject to a disciplinary procedure.
Prison authorities said the precise circumstances of the escape would be investigated. While the man was at large the prison was on lockdown, with all visit cancelled.
The escape is the second recently from a penal establishment in the Kempen area of Antwerp province. Five men tried to escape from the prison in Turnhout last month. Three were caught immediately, and one more later, also in Nijmegen. One other man remains at large.
The area, close to the Dutch border, has two other penal establishments: the low-security colony in Merksplas, formerly used to detain vagrants, and the prison in Hoogstraten.