He was declared “public enemy number 1” by the police. Twice he escaped from prison, in one of them he was not caught for two years. His extraordinary life has been the subject of movies. The robber, who was in the newspaper headlines for the crimes he committed for a while, is now the last news with his death.
The dates were October 29, 1968, and it was an ordinary Tuesday. The news was that the anti-Vietnam War protest got out of control and violence erupted outside the American Embassy in London. British radios were playing profusely Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which would become the number one hit song of the future.
DID THE IMPOSSIBLE, THE MANhunt STARTED
Meanwhile at Durham Prison, one of Britain’s most dangerous criminals was preparing to try the impossible and escape from the prison’s high-security E Wing. His disappearance led to a nationwide manhunt.
In recent years when the Kray Twins, The Great Train Robbery and Harry Roberts emerged, John McVicar, the country’s most feared armed robber, would once again make British news headlines for crime and criminals.
John McVicar, 28, was being held in Durham’s castle-like E Wing, along with some of the country’s toughest criminals. It was almost a “prison within a prison” and was seen as almost “unescaped”, but the London robber would shatter that theory. In fact, McVicar had managed to escape from prison before.
In 1966, he escaped from the bus that carried him to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. Despite all the efforts of the police for four months, she could not be found. When he was caught, he was sent back to prison, but that didn’t stop him. He was at work again on October 26, 1968.
SWIM THE FRINGE RIVER
He managed to get into a vent and crawl along the chimney, enter the exercise area, and then cross the roof before lowering himself down the prison wall. In the middle of the night, with his heart racing, McVicar found himself jogging through the narrow, winding streets of Durham City. Instead of crossing any bridges, the fugitive swam across the icy-cold Wear River and spent the rest of the night sleeping in an abandoned field.
The next day, as a massive police hunt began and television crews and journalists rushed to Durham, McVicar stayed off the crowded roads. He followed the flow of the river and rail for 12 kilometers and finally reached Chester-le-Street. Despite being noticed by the locals, he escaped being caught by the police gathered around. McVicar remained on the run for two years, until he was recaptured in 1970.
THE STORY OF HIS ESCAPE HAS BEEN A FILM
Despite serving a 26-year sentence, he was paroled in 1978 and penned his autobiography, McVicar. The story of his escape was later made into a hit 1980s movie starring legendary The Who frontman Roger Daltry. He also began his postgraduate studies at the University of Leicester and built a successful career as a journalist. He had become a regular television figure in the 80s and 90s. “Public Enemy #1” was now a television star.
WITHDRAWN IN SEQUENCE
The former bank robber lived alone in his old age in a trailer behind a village bar in Althorne, Essex, British newspaper The Sun reported.
Her 80-year-old sister, Janice, told The Sun:
His story ended sadly. Last time I spoke to him, he told me he was cold and alone. I’ve always been proud of him for getting his life back on track. He isolated himself from his entire family, but I was very sad that his life ended this way.
McVicar is suspected to have died of a heart attack while walking his husky dog, Lucky. Essex Police said John McVicar died on 6 September and his death was not suspicious.