Indian prisoners escape by scaling walls with bedsheets

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Scores of inmates staged a mass breakout from an Indian young offenders detention centre Monday by tying bedsheets together and then scaling down the walls of the three-storey building, police said.

A total of 91 inmates, including several convicted murderers, managed to flee the facility in Meerut overnight, although 35 have since been recaptured, said the city's superintendent of police Om Prakash.

"They removed an iron grille from a window at the back of the building while police were guarding the front," Prakash told AFP from Meerut in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

"This was done so professionally that no one got a whiff," Prakash added.

Those still on the run included inmates convicted of crimes such as murder, rape, theft and banditry, Prakash added. All are aged under 18.

Police say the break-out was staged some time between 1:00am and 3:00am and the alarm was only raised when officers who were patrolling near the centre spotted some of the fugitives trying to flag down public transport.

Inmates from the same centre beat a policeman to death in December after he objected to their lewd behaviour with a woman during a court trial.

More than 31,000 inmates are being held at young offenders institutes in India, according to the latest available set of official statistics.

Although they are meant to be under lock and key overnight, inmates usually sleep in dormitories rather than individual cells.