Killer escapes jail 'by making copy of master key pictured in prison guidebook'

Claim by ex-guard contradicts new biography which says Daniel Heiss memorised item he saw on officer's belt

Jon Sharman
Thursday 19 January 2017 19:55 GMT
Daniel Luther Heiss
Daniel Luther Heiss

A convicted killer was able to escape from jail using the master key — which a fellow inmate had recreated from the cover image on a booklet handed out to all prisoners.

Daniel Luther Heiss was found guilty of murdering another man at a remote Australian cattle station and sentenced to life behind bars.

According to a new biography by his girlfriend Carolyn Wilkinson, Heiss memorised the shape of the key after seeing it on a prison officer's belt at Berrimah jail in Darwin. But a former guard has told Australian media an information handbook was the real source of details for the copy.

The image on the booklet was "a dead-set copy of the keys that we had," he claimed, according to

He added: "The key he copied was in the shape of a figure E, which was the master key."

Another inmate with jewellery-making equipment is said to have crafted the key. The guard added: "He used to give the key to Heiss and he would put it in the lock, then give it back and say 'I think it needs a bit more off here or there'."

Even after letting themselves out, the pair had still to climb over three sets of razor-wire perimeter fence. Heiss was on the run for 12 days during the 1995 escape bid.

The former guard said prisoners' handbooks were thereafter swiftly removed and contractors called in to change the locks.

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