Bali police search for four inmates who escaped by digging tunnel

(From left) Dimitar Nikolov, Sayed Muhammad, Shaun Edward Davidson and Tee Kok King, prisoners at Bali's Kerokoban Prison, reportedly escaped from their cells using a tunnel.
(From left) Dimitar Nikolov, Sayed Muhammad, Shaun Edward Davidson and Tee Kok King, prisoners at Bali's Kerokoban Prison, reportedly escaped from their cells using a tunnel.PHOTO: EPA
Indonesian Police gear up in front of the Kerobokan prison as they start an investigations into four foreign prisoners who escaped, reportedly using a tunnel, in Bali, on June 20, 2017.
Indonesian Police gear up in front of the Kerobokan prison as they start an investigations into four foreign prisoners who escaped, reportedly using a tunnel, in Bali, on June 20, 2017.PHOTO: EPA
An Indonesian worker drains a tunnel, which was reportedly used by four foreign prisoners to escape from Bali's Kerokoban Prison, as police conducts an investigation.
An Indonesian worker drains a tunnel, which was reportedly used by four foreign prisoners to escape from Bali's Kerokoban Prison, as police conducts an investigation.PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA - Bali police on Tuesday (June 20) continued a search for four foreign inmates who escaped from a high-security prison on the Indonesian resort island of Bali after digging a 15-metre-long tunnel under the prison's walls.

Prison guards and local police officers found the tunnel on Monday. It led to a road outside Kerobokan Prison, which houses more than 1,000 inmates, including a large number of foreigners convicted of crimes including murder and drug offenses.

The fugitives include Shaun Edward Davidson, a 33-year-old Australian from Perth who made headlines in his homeland when he was sentenced to a year in prison in September after being caught using someone else's passport on the island.

The other escaped inmates are Dimitar Nikolov Iliev, 43, of Bulgaria; Sayed Mohammed Said, 31, of India; and Tee Kok King, 50, of Malaysia, said Syarpani, a spokesman for the government agency that oversees prisons, reported New York Times.

The prison, which is west of Denpasar, the island's capital, is only a few kilometres from many of Bali's internationally famous beaches and resorts.

Police said the four men used a fork and a bucket to dig the tunnel which was around 50cm by 75cm wide, Daily Mail Australia reported. It quoted the head of Kerobokan prison, Tony Nainggolan, as saying officials suspect the tunnel took more than a week to build.

Police wearing scuba diving gear entered the jail on Tuesday, said Bandung police chief Yudith Satriya Hananta.

"We want to check the tunnel. Where it goes, how deep it is and find out all things, to anticipate if they may still be trapped there," he told News Corp Australia from inside Kerobokan prison.

There are now calls for security at the overcrowded and understaffed jail to be increased.

Police have questioned 10 jail guards who were on duty at the time of the escape but it is unclear how the men escaped so easily.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, in January 2016 Davidson was due in court in Perth on charges of possession of methamphetamine and cannabis, and two other offenses. When he didn't attend, an arrest warrant was issued.

Davidson fled the country, arriving at Bali's international airport from Perth.

Davidson was arrested months later by the Indonesian authorities, who had been looking for him after having received tips that he overstayed his tourist visa and was using false documents, the newspaper reported.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in an e-mail reply to questions that it had been "advised by Indonesian authorities of an alleged escape from Kerobokan Prison of several prisoners, including an Australian man," but it declined to comment further.

Kerobokan has long had a grim reputation for overcrowding, corrupt guards and facilities below international standards.

Among the prison's most notable foreign inmates in recent years were members of the so-called Bali Nine group of Australians who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle 18.5 pounds of heroin out of the resort island. The group's two ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed by firing squad in 2015.

The prison was also home for nearly a decade to Schapelle Corby, an Australian former student beautician who was sentenced to 20 years in 2005 for smuggling 9 pounds of marijuana into Bali. Now 39, she was granted parole in 2014, and last month allowed to leave the island and return home.

Monday's escape was another black eye for Indonesia's penal system, which has experienced numerous prison escapes and riots over the years because of overcrowding and inadequate conditions, as well as a lack of guards and prison personnel.

In May, hundreds of inmates broke out of an overcrowded prison on the island of Sumatra. In June, flooding caused a wall to collapse at a different prison on Sumatra, allowing dozens to escape.