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Man Who Escaped From Notorious Thai Jail Reveals How He Did It

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Man Who Escaped From Notorious Thai Jail Reveals How He Did It

The only Westerner to ever escape from a notorious Thai prison has revealed that an umbrella was key to his success.

David McMillan, who was born in London, had a '40-year career' as a drug smuggler, which took him all around the world.

But an admitted 'career lowlight' was when he was sentenced to death by firing squad in Thailand after being convicted of trafficking heroin.

Credit: David McMillan/Supplied
Credit: David McMillan/Supplied
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He was sent to the notorious maximum security Klong Prem Central prison in Bangkok, which houses up to 20,000 inmates across numerous buildings.

Speaking to LADbible McMillan said: "I found myself facing the death penalty, which doesn't take much doing in Thailand - you only need to be charged with 25g or more of A class drugs or more and you'll be facing the death penalty.

"Now they do it by lethal injection but back in those days it was the firing squad. It was a machine gun fixed to a bench top and it had three pieces of string attached to the trigger, with exactly 10 bullets inside - so the three executioners would pull on their bits of string and none of them would know if it was them that fired the fatal shot."

With that information whirling around his head, in August 1996 McMillan decided to try something that no other Westerner had ever successfully done before - break out of the prison.

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"I had heard of at least 20 half-way developed escape schemes from the very outset and I had a bit of experience from earlier imprisonment about prison escapes and how they go," McMillan said.

He settled on what could be considered a 'traditional' escape method - a hacksaw to the prison bars.

McMillan said: "The blades came in in a care parcel - the four hacksaw bladed were concealed inside a scroll.

Credit: David McMillan/Supplied
Credit: David McMillan/Supplied
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"But I had to distract the guard's attention who was searching it - so I said to my friend, 'one thing that is not allowed is pornography, find the worst and most excessive you can get your hands on and put it in the box'."

The plan worked, with the guards spotting the porn and confiscating it but overlooking the hidden blades.

He said: "I decided to carry out my plan at night because that was when the trigger-happy guard wasn't working.

"One thing I never really accounted for, during the day time there is lots of background noise and you knew this guard or that guard was positioned here or there, but at night it was a lot quieter.

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"The sawing of the bars sounded terribly loud and it really slowed down the whole operation. After an hour only the bottom of one bar was cut and after an hour and three quarters only the top section of the same bar was cut... and I wanted to take out three."

In the end, McMillan had to give up on his plan of moving three and instead enlisted the help of his pal who was 'built like a Viking' to stretch the bars and, oiled up and wearing just his underpants, he wriggled out of the gap left by one.

This was really just the start of his great escape though, as McMillan now had to get over six walls before he could finally taste freedom.

McMillan retrieved a bag he had stashed away a bag containing some food, water and a change of clothes and then using ladders made from bamboo poles, bookcases turned into stepladders and shower curtains repurposed as ropes McMillan made his way over the series of walls - hiding in the shadows and keeping out the way of the guards the entire time, of course.

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Design for the bamboo ladder McMillan used. Credit: David McMillan/Supplied
Design for the bamboo ladder McMillan used. Credit: David McMillan/Supplied

Once outside, McMillan changed into 'civilian clothes' and - importantly - carried an umbrella, something he reckons was an integral part of him blending in.

"I took an umbrella from the umbrella factory where I normally worked - I put up the umbrella and I remember thinking to myself, 'escaping prisoners don't carry umbrellas'. The umbrella saved my life... amongst many things," he said.

Within hours of his escape, and with a new fake passport in hand, McMillan was on a flight to Singapore, never to return to Thailand again.

In 2014 Thailand launched extradition proceedings against McMillian, but two weeks before he was due to be sent over Thai authorities withdrew the request meaning McMillan was finally, legally, a free man.

McMillian has since written a book about his experience entitled Unforgiving Destiny: The Relentless Pursuit of a Black Marketeer.

Featured Image Credit: David McMillian/Supplied

Topics: Interesting

Claire Reid
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