'Possible sighting' in US manhunt for 2 killers who escaped from maximum-security prison

Prison inmates Richard Matt, 48, (left) and David Sweat, 35, are seen in a combination of enhanced pictures released by the New York State police on June 17, 2015.
Prison inmates Richard Matt, 48, (left) and David Sweat, 35, are seen in a combination of enhanced pictures released by the New York State police on June 17, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York state police were investigating a possible sighting Saturday of two killers who escaped a maximum-security jail two weeks ago in an elaborate prison break that was likened to a Hollywood movie.

Police said they were expanding the hunt, which appeared to be closing on Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35, who have been described as highly dangerous and told the public not to approach them.

Police said the possible sighting was in Allegany County, about 950km south of Clinton County Correctional Facility, the sprawling prison the duo escaped from sparking a huge search involving hundreds of police, dogs and helicopters.

Two men "who may fit the description" were spotted along a railroad line in the town of Friendship, said state police chief Joseph D'Amico. "While this is an unconfirmed sighting, the state police is asking residents who live in this area along the New York-Pennsylvania border to be on alert," he said in a statement. "If these men are spotted, please call 911 immediately. Do not approach, as both are considered to be very dangerous."

Reporters in the area were asked to clear a "hot area," WIVB reported.

State police also told Gatehouse Media Southern Tier newspapers the two men spotted in Friendship fit the description of Sweat and Matt.

"They are near railroad tracks and a culvert... One had a scruffy brown beard. One had a blue sweatshirt on and the other a black t-shirt," the spokesman told Wellsville Daily Reporter.

The spokesperson confirmed the authorities were "bringing in assets from other areas", the said report said.

Joyce Mitchell, who worked in the tailor shop at the prison in the village of Dannemora, is in custody charged with facilitating the escape, which saw the duo use hacksaw blades to bust out of their cells before crawling along pipes and out into freedom via a manhole cover.

Matt, 1.83m tall with multiple tattoos, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping and dismembering of his former boss.

He fled to Mexico after the murder and killed another American there, before being sentenced to 20 years and extradited back to New York.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for murdering a sheriff's deputy in New York state in 2002 when he was 22.

US Marshals on Thursday added the convicts to a 15 most-wanted list of "the worst of the worst" fugitives.