Prisoner escaped court cell after blunder by guards

James Stevenson had 29 previous convictions, including one for killing his mother's boyfriend, and had previously escaped from prison.

Given his history, one would have hoped that, when putting him in his cell following his latest court appearance, security staff at Swansea Guildhall would have locked the door. They didn't. And, using a shoelace and a fire extinguisher, Stevenson escaped again. Twice.

Yesterday the 30-year-old was back in court and jailed for an additional two years after admitting escaping from custody.

Stevenson had appeared on firearms charges last October and was sentenced to five years. After being taken to his cell he noticed that the security staff, who had not been made aware of his previous escape, neglected to double-lock the door because it could not be opened from the inside. After they left, Stevenson used a lace from his shoe to unlock a springloaded latch and then used a fire extinguisher to smash a wooden door which would lead him outside. But fearful he had made too much noise he went back into his cell and called security, demanding to see his solicitor, in an attempt to show staff he was still locked inside. When they went away he did the exact same again, before scaling a 28ft fence, climbing over razor wire and scrambling on to a roof.

He gave himself up 16 days later, fearful that he would be shot by an armed police unit if he did not. His time on the run sparked a manhunt which included 40 police officers and cost £25,000 in overtime alone. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to rob a jewellery shop.

Sentencing him, Judge John Diehl said: "What you have to bear in mind is the obvious public concern that results from this, particularly in relation to a man of your record. I cannot ignore the fact that this was not the first time that you escaped from lawful custody. You represent a perceived public danger."

Stevenson's first escape came in 2005. He was in prison after admitting manslaughter when, in an attempt to evict his mother's boyfriend, Paul Mainwaring, from her flat, he stuffed newspaper into his mouth and taped over it. Mr Mainwaring suffocated.

While in Verne prison, Dorset, Stevenson made a rope and used part of a metal chair to put a hook on the end of it. He used this to scale the perimeter wall and, despite breaking his ankle jumping on the other side, he stole a moped from a member of prison staff and drove away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific