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Australian fugitive surrenders after 3-decade beach stay

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A 64-year-old fugitive walked into a Sydney police station to give himself up almost 30 years after he used a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to escape from prison, police said on Wednesday.

Darko Desic decided to go back to prison because Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown made him jobless and homeless, media reported.

Desic surrendered at Dee Why Police Station at Sydney’s fashionable northern beaches on Sunday morning and was denied bail when he appeared in a downtown court on Tuesday charged with escaping from lawful custody in 1992, a police statement said. The charge carries a potential seven-year prison sentence.

Sydney’s lockdown, which began in June, had cost Desic his cash-in-hand work as a laborer and handyman, unnamed police sources told Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph and Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“He slept on the beach on Saturday night and said: ‘Stuff it, I’ll go back to prison where there’s a roof over my head,’” a source told the newspaper.

Desic was 35 when he escaped from a century-old prison in Grafton, 620 kilometers (390 miles) north of Sydney, over the night of July 31-Aug. 1, 1992.

Police allege he used tools including a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to cut through his cell window bars and a perimeter fence.

He had served 13 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence for growing marijuana.

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Desic told police he escaped because he thought he would be deported once he had served his sentence, the newspaper reported. He feared he would be punished for failing to do his compulsory military service in his former country, which has since broken into several nations.

It’s not immediately clear to which country he could be deported. He is not an Australian citizen. The newspaper said immigration officials gave up looking for him and in 2008 granted him residency in Australia.

Desic told police that he had spent his entire time at large at Sydney’s northern beaches in the suburb of Avalon, and according to the newspaper, had never come to the attention of police in that time.

Desic maintained a low profile but was once mentioned on “Australia’s Most Wanted,” a true crime TV program that ran for a decade until 1999, after someone reported seeing him at Nowra, 190 kilometers (120 miles) south of Sydney.
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