British drug smuggler who was given death sentence in Thailand explains how he escaped
| Last updated
A British-Australian drug smuggler who was given the death sentence in Thailand has revealed how he managed to escape from a maximum security prison.
During his second stint in jail in Thailand, he was handed the death penalty, so naturally he launched an audacious – and, incredibly, successful - escape.
He had been told he would be found guilty within two weeks, and would be sentenced to death.
“I would be sentenced to death,” he told us.
“The execution wasn't pretty. It was by machine gun. The prisoner was tied a plank and a machine gun that is welded to a bench has three strings tied to it and three guards pull those strings so none of the guards can say ‘It was my gun who had ended that man's life’.”
McMillan immediately decided he had to get out, and set about bringing an elaborate plan to life.
“All of the other plans had fallen to bits because they depended on other people,” he continued.
“I had to go out the old fashioned way, which was cut my way out of the cell bars, and I needed equipment for that.”
Thankfully, a ‘good friend’ came through and McMillan managed to get all the necessary tools and items that he needed.
"I timed it out, walked around the streets – it had streets inside it – and timed it with my trusty Casio,” he said.
“So I knew roughly how long it would take […] but the night’s a different world. I’m a prisoner, I’m only used to noise during the day, even the fan chopping around in the cell.
“At night, it’s so quiet. Everything I did squeaked and rattled and twisted.”
McMillan had had time to build furniture that could ‘come apart and go back together as a stepladder’, which would allow him to reach the only window in the cell.
“Then I went into the shower and took apart a poster that somebody had sent me which [contained] two hacksaw blades,” he said.
“Other tools I took out, from a pocket knife to a laser pen, flashlight, were hidden around the cell. I started to work on the bars.”
One of his cellmates, a Swedish man called Sten who was nicknamed ‘The Viking’, helped him turn wooden frames into makeshift ladders.
“The first stroke of that tungsten steel [hacksaw] on these old bars was like the worst violin player in town,” McMillan recalled.
“While Sten worked on that, I had my eyes glued to the cracks in the cell bars to the sleeping guard about 60ft away.”
Sten eventually managed to prise the bars open enough for McMillan to squeeze through by 3am.
“I had to strip down to next to nothing, grease up, put a towel on the cut section of the bar of the window so it wouldn't scratch my back and levered myself up,” he said.
McMillan then made his way through the prison, through one obstacle known as ‘Mars Bar Creek’, the open sewer that ran around the perimeter of the prison.
After crossing that using the ladder and rope, he clambered up the high outer wall.
He continued: “I used the last bit of army boot webbing to make a rope to sail to the ground and found myself before the main moat and realised there wasn't time to go across that.
“It would have been noisy, it was so quiet. I had to go around to the one place I could walk: the front entrance.”
He even carried an umbrella, which he felt would help his cover.
“It was just raining enough so that I had an excuse to put up that umbrella,” McMillan said.
“As I walked slowly towards the front crossing bridge, at the front of the prison - this is where guards are arriving for work and where there are shops and people are setting up for the day - I thought, somebody looking down would think, ‘That's a guard coming in late’.
“One thing is for sure, escaping prisoners don't take the trouble to bring an umbrella in case it rains.”
He was finally free from the prison, having left money with his cellmates so that they could bribe guards if they came down on them for the escape.
McMillan then made his way to a safehouse in Bangkok, where a former cellmate who had been a member of the Chinese Triads had also arranged for a forged passport to be left, before heading on to the airport.