The Daily Telegraph
Alcatraz escape was a success, letter claims
FBI reopened case after a man purporting to be John Anglin says trio survived attempt to flee island prison
IT WAS the infamous 1962 jailbreak that inspired a Hollywood film – the escape by three inmates of Alcatraz, America’s notorious island fortress.
The fate of brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris, their accomplice, has long been a source of intrigue, but it was widely accepted that they did not survive.
However, it has now emerged that the FBI have been investigating a letter from a man purporting to be John Anglin, claiming that he has spent the last five decades living freely in the US.
Officers at the intelligence agency deemed the letter so credible that they reopened their investigation into the fate of the prisoners. The letter’s author said the three inmates had “barely” made it through their escape, adding that his brother Clarence had died in 2011 and Morris in 2008.
He added that he has cancer and offered to return to prison for a year in return for access to medical treatment.
A copy of the letter, first sent to a San Francisco police station in 2013, was recently obtained by KPIX 5, a Californian TV news channel.
The letter reads: “My name is John Anglin. I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!”
It added: “If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke.”
The US Marshals, the only agency still investigating the case today, said the FBI examined the letter for fingerprints and DNA, as well as the handwriting but the results were inconclusive.
“There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of them would have changed their lifestyle and become completely law abiding citizens after this escape,” the agency said.
The three inmates, immortalised in Escape from Alcatraz, the 1979 film starring Clint Eastwood, were assumed to have drowned as they made their way from the island on a makeshift raft constructed from inflated raincoats.
Home to some of the most infamous criminals in American history, the prison sat on a rock in the San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles from the mainland and surrounded by strong, unpredictable currents.
However, researchers have concluded that the men had a real chance of survival, depending on the time of their escape.
Meanwhile, some of the Anglins’ relatives have long maintained that the men survived and have made contact over the years.
The Anglins were jailed after carrying out a series of bank robberies and were sent to Alcatraz in the early Sixties after multiple failed prison break attempts on the mainland.
While there, the pair befriended Morris, a robber and drug dealer, and together the trio hatched an intricate escape plan.
Over six months they gradually worked to widen the ventilation ducts in their cell wall using sharpened spoons and discarded saw blades and concealed the results with painted cardboard. On the night of June 11 1962, they crawled through the hole and up a network of pipes to the prison roof. The raft on which they left the island was made of more than 50 raincoats.