A man charged with two counts of murder has vanished from one of Russia's best guarded detention centers through a hole in the ceiling. The escapee may have only used a spoon in his jailbreak, a police source said.
Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial jail, famous for holding high-profile detainees such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Sergey Magnitsky, has had only a few escapes in its history. Oleg Topalov, a 33-year-old from Sochi, may have outdone them all in sheer effortlessness as he allegedly only had a piece of tableware to aid in his escape.
Early Tuesday morning, the prison's guards discovered that Topalov, an inmate in an eight-person cell, was missing. Accused of two murders and illegal arms trafficking, Topalov was characterized as "mentally abnormal and liable to escape" by the prison staff.
Having been detained for a year and a half, he was scheduled to appear in court soon, but made his escape before the hearings could begin.
According to Federal Penitentiary Service spokesperson Sergey Tsygankov, Topalov "expanded the vent of an air-shaft with the help of some item." He then climbed up the vent to the prison's roof, and left the facility undetected.
The only item suitable for the job that Topalov would have had in his possession was "a table-spoon," a police source speculated, according to Interfax. The inmates are "routinely searched" for items they are not allowed to have, the source added.
While the police search for the escapee within the city and Moscow region, investigators have opened an inquiry into possible dereliction of duty among prison staff.
Most of the inmates who attempted to escape Matrosskaya Tishina before Topalov used brute force to smash the facility's brick walls. They were all later detained.
The most successful escape that the jail has seen took place in 1995, puzzling the authorities and causing a big stir in the media. Notorious hitman Aleksandr Solonik made use of an accomplice in the junior police who infiltrated the prison guards' ranks and smuggled him some mountain-climbing equipment. Both escaped with the help of a 20-meter long cord thrown over the jail's wall. Solonik was never seen in Russia again, but two years later reports of his death emerged in Greece.