Alleged escapee appears in court

A PRISONER who sparked a manhunt after he allegedly escaped from Langi Kal Kal Prison near Beaufort last week has fronted court for the first time since he was recaptured.

Christopher John Clarke, 29, appeared briefly in Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday where he faces a single count of escaping from a prison.

Clarke’s lawyer Natalie Heynes made no application for bail and Clarke was remanded in custody.

He is due back in court on January 29.

Outside of court, police said Clarke would likely remain in the Ballarat cells for the rest of the week and that it was unlikely he would return to Langi Kal Kal Prison.

Clarke was arrested on Friday at a petrol station in Colac after allegedly escaping from the prison at Trawalla near Beaufort sometime between 9pm Wednesday and 7am Thursday. 

He was initially detained along with a 44-year-old woman from Werribee, but she was bailed to face court at a later date. 

Clarke had been serving time for burglary and theft-related matters when the alleged escape took place. He was due to be reviewed for parole this year.

On Thursday, Victoria Police released an image of Clarke and said they believed he was travelling with an associate in a 2000 silver Ford Falcon. 

Corrections Victoria last week confirmed that a review of security at the low-security prison farm would be launched by the independent Office of Correctional Services Review. 

No information about the time frame or breadth of the review was released. 

Clarke’s alleged escape is the latest in a string of security breaches at the prison.

In April 2010, convicted murderer David John Scott escaped from the prison farm by climbing through a dormitory block window during the night and hitchhiking on the nearby Western Highway. 

He was serving a minimum 12-year jail sentence for stabbing a man to death with a World War II bayonet in 1999.

In July 2006, prisoner Shane Schepis was arrested when he voluntarily attended Melbourne’s St Kilda Road police complex 10 days after escaping the prison. 

Earlier that year three men escaped Langi Kal Kal using a stolen car while drunk. 

In May 2001, another convicted murderer was among three men to flee on foot from the prison during nighttime lockdown.

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