Manhunt boosted but leads elude

Skivvies-clad jail escapee still on the run

Kyodo

Police expanded the scale and scope of their manhunt Thursday for a 40-year-old Chinese inmate who escaped from Hiroshima Prison in Naka Ward the previous day, apparently only in his penitentiary-issued underwear.

Early Thursday morning, Hiroshima Prefectural Police deployed some 160 officers to train stations, bus stops and other locations in the heart of the city to track down Li Guolin, who was doing time for attempted murder.

After releasing Li’s mug shot to the public, the police received tips saying that someone resembling the convict was spotted on a train or walking on a street, investigative sources said.

Police dogs traced his scent to nearby Yoshijima Park but no farther, the sources said.

So far, police have obtained no key information on his whereabouts, the sources said.

Li was sentenced to 23 years in prison after firing a handgun at a police officer after breaking into a house during an attempted burglary in 2005.

Elementary and junior high schools around the prison were on high alert in the morning, with children walking to school accompanied by parents or other guardians.

The Hiroshima city board of education has instructed elementary and junior high schools, as well as kindergartens in the vicinity to organize children into groups when going to or leaving school.

“Children seem worried. I hope the case will be resolved without anyone getting hurt,” said Yukio Kubo, the principal of Yoshijima Elementary School, which is about 500 meters south of the prison.

According to the police, Li was only in his underwear when he made his escape by scaling a 5-meter-high outer wall.

Footholds were recently attached to the wall for construction work, and the sensors and alarms on the wall had been switched off, the police said.

A security guard said he saw a man jump off the wall at around 10 a.m. Wednesday. “He fell on his rear and turned over. Then he ran off at a steady trot,” he said.

Li is 173 cm tall, weighs 66 kg and has short cropped hair. When last seen, he was wearing white underwear, the police said.

Hiroshima police are still trying to figure out how Li sneaked out of his cell and reached the footholds on the outer wall unnoticed, investigative sources said.

The police are also wondering whether Li acted alone or had help, the sources said.

In past jailbreaks, escapees secretly duplicated their cell keys with the help of outsiders and crafted makeshift ladders out of anything available, including pipes stolen from prison workshops and bed sheets for tying them.

But some escapees may take reckless action. In 1994, a fugitive who was on the run for four months after breaking out of Matsuyama Prison in Ehime Prefecture holed up in an apartment and took its occupant, a female college student, hostage. The student sustained severe injuries during the standoff with police.