Prisoner turns tables on his Japanese guards

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JAPANESE police are highly embarrassed about a prisoner who gained so much influence over his guards that they agreed to bring a woman into his cell and to buy him whisky and food - to stop him carrying out his threat to disgrace them all by escaping.

In the psychological reverse of the 'Helsinki syndrome', where a captive falls under the spell of his captor, Chae Tong Chin, 47, managed to manipulate the entire staff of Nagata-ku police station in Kobe. They treated him like the pampered guest of a five-star hotel with 24- hour room service rather than the inmate of a detention centre awaiting trial on drugs charges.

Tadashi Ishikawa, the regional police chief, said the affair was extremely regrettable. An investigation is under way. 'Regarding the matter at the police station you have mentioned, we have no comment. If we find someone needs to be disciplined, we will do so,' said a spokesman for Kobe prefectural police station.

Chae was arrested in June for possession of drugs and confined to a cell on the third floor of Nagata-ku police station. As soon as he was locked up he began shouting abuse at his guards, driving them to distraction.

Eventually one guard gave him some cigarettes to try to keep him quiet. But Chae knew that it was an infringement of police regulations to give anything to a detainee, so he used this to blackmail the guards to accede to more of his requests or be denounced to their superiors.

First, he ordered cigarettes and liquor to be brought to his cell. Then he demanded to be let out to enjoy his drinking and eating sessions in a nearby room. He also asked for a female inmate at the detention centre to be brought to his cell one night. The woman agreed, and the guards led her to Chae's cell. A guard told investigators he did not know what happened as he did not watch the couple. Chae said he only wanted to talk to the woman.

Finally, Chae devised an escape plan - police will not go into details - and when two guards discovered this they rushed out and bought pounds 25 of food and alcohol to persuade him to stay. Chae accepted their kind offer.