Police and mud combine to capture Parkhurst escapers

The three escaped Parkhurst prisoners were back in custody last night after being captured by police during two hours of high drama on the Isle of Wight.

Officers first apprehended Keith Rose and Andrew Rodger in open country six miles from the prison. The third prisoner, Matthew Williams, escaped again, but was caught 90 minutes later. The final stages of the search became even more highly-charged because Williams was believed to be armed with a home-made pistol.

Last night, Rose and Rodger were being detained at the Island's Newport police station. Williams was immediately taken back to Parkhurst.

All three men escaped from the prison last Tuesday during a keep-fit session. They let themselves out of the back door of a gym with a duplicate key, cut through the perimeter fence and scaled the prison wall using a 25ft ladder. Police had scoured the island for five days but had failed to turn up any positive leads until last night's breakthrough.

The drama began at 7.20pm when Colin Jones, an off-duty prison officer, was driving in the country at Lushington Hill, Wootton, when he saw the three men, walking along the road.

Mr Jones, who works on the same wing from which the escapees fled, flagged down a passing police motorcyclist. Officers rushed to the scene in force and a spotter plane was called in.

Rose and Rodger were held 10 minutes after Mr Jones had raised the alarm, but Williams escaped, throwing off his jacket as he dived through a hedge to escape his pursuers.

A caravan park which borders a racecourse and the waterside area were sealed off as the search continued.

One eyewitness, Kelly Barker, said: "It was terrifying. Dozens of police appeared from nowhere. Five vans full of officers raced past me and pulled up suddenly. The police jumped out of the vans and started searching the woods and fields."

Police caught up with Williams shortly after 9pm, as he tried to elude them by swimming across the River Medina. Officers had to plunge into six feet of water. They cornered him on mud flats at Island Harbour, near East Cowes.

Rose and Rodger - said to be "totally dejected" after five days on the run - told police about the gun and said Williams had 12 rounds of ammunition. However, police said last night that no weapons were found on him.

A police spokesman said: "Two of the men lost heart and gave up after running just a short distance across a field. Rose and Rodger looked dejected. They didn't have any strength left in them but Williams looked much fitter. He was desperate to get away and disappeared off across the fields. Eventually he ran towards the river and went towards the water, but got stuck in mud flats."

Emma Byrne, a waitress at a nearby inn, said: "The police came back after they recaptured him. They were very pleased with themselves."