Prison staff thwarted a Shawkshank Redemption-style escape after prisoners excavated a tunnel through their 4ft thick cell wall – which they disguised with PAPIER MACHE bricks.
Two inmates used improvised tools to dig through the wall at Exeter Prison in Devon before removing the dust, inserting fake bricks and painting over them.
The men had reached daylight on the other side when their plan was foiled by a guard who spotted brick dust on the outside.
A member of the prison’s civilian staff then looked up and saw four bricks that appeared to be the wrong way around in the wall, on the second floor.
Detective Constable Alex Bingham, of Exeter CID, said: ”We believe that the two inmates may have orchestrated a move to one of the only cells that you could possibly dig from.
”They dug through the wall and used papier mache to fill in where the mortar had fallen out.
”They have then used paint to paint over what they have done. If you did a visual check of the cell you would not have noticed it.”
The men are thought to have gained access to the arts and crafts department, where they obtained paint and materials to make papier mache.
They then painstakingly removed the thick red bricks from their cell wall using hand-made tools, before concealing it using paint and fake bricks.
The plan was scuppered, just inches from making it through the wall, when a member of staff noticed the bricks appeared to be ‘the wrong way round’.
A site manager, who was on a routine patrol around the building, alerted wardens who checked the wall from the inside and discovered the ruse.
Officers said that when they uncovered the plot the wall was wet with paint and the removed bricks were hidden under the lower bunk bed in the cell.
However, even if the inmates had made it out they would still have had to negotiate a 20ft wall topped with razor wire to complete their escape.
The two men, who have not been identified, were arrested and are being held at separate jails after being charged with attempting to escape lawful custody.
DC Bingham said a prisoner on each ward has access to paint for renovating cells.
However, he said the suspects had a bottle full of paint in their possession without either of them having asked for any.
DC Bingham added: ”This looks to us like a professional orchestrated escape plan from the prison.
”It is unusual that these inmates would try to escape. It is not something that happens very often.”
Exeter prison is classed as a category-B jail which secures the second most serious classification of prisoner and is officially described as ‘Prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary, but for whom escape must be made very difficult’.
It is understood that the prison has since carried out a full check of all the cells.
No one at the prison was available to comment.
The foiled escape echoes the plot of the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, whose character tunnels his way out of a tough US jail.
Three years ago, a similar plot was foiled when wardens heard lag Daniel Vail, 25, burrowing through walls.
He even made a dummy from bedding and dug a hole in his cell, before being caught out.