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Alcatraz prisoners' notorious escape remains mystery 50 years on

June 13, 2012 - London

50 years after the famed 'Escape from Alcatraz' 1962 prison break, two of the three prisoner's sisters have revealed that they believe their brothers' made it off the island to freedom.

Brothers John and Clarence Anglin, along with fellow prisoner Frank Morris pulled off the great escape on June 11, and to this day remain wanted by authorities as their bodies have never been recovered.

The Anglins' two younger sisters, Marie Widner and Mearl Taylor, visited the former prison on Monday to commemorate the anniversary of their siblings' courageous getaway.

"I've always believed they made it and I haven't changed my mind about that," Sky News quoted Marie as saying.

Before the prison closed in March 1963, 36 inmates had attempted to escape, but only the Anglin brothers and Morris managed to remain elusive to the authorities.

The trio were all serving sentences for bank robbery, but it was the Anglins' history of previous escapes along with a failed attempt to sneak Clarence out of federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas that resulted in their getting send to Alcatraz in 1960 and 1961.

"Just because they did this mischievous stuff growing up, they were not bad boys. They never caused no problems with the family," Mearl said.

"They just got out and did this mischievous stuff until it got to the bank robbery and that's when they really got into trouble. I'm proud of them," she said.

The US Marshals Service took over the manhunt from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1978.

US Marshal Michael Dyke inherited the case in 2003 and while it remains unknown for certain whether they survived the treacherous bay crossing from the rock to San Francisco, he even now gets tips every couple of months about reported sightings of the trio.

He said that the most convincing clues have included that the Anglin's mother for several years received flowers without a card and that the brothers attended her 1973 funeral disguised in women's clothes despite a swarm of FBI agents.

If the Anglins or Morris were ever tracked down Marshal Dyke said that he would still arrest them, but added that he would compliment them for their meticulous escape.

"I'd have to compliment them because it was very meticulous what they did, how they escaped from here," he said.

The warrants on them will expire when each of them pass their 100th birthday.

They reportedly spent months using spoons and forks to dig holes in the crumbling masonry surrounding the air vents in their cells, eventually piercing the six and a half inch (16.5cm) thick walls, before finally squeezing out through the roof vents.

While preparing for the escape they also produced a raft and life vests out of more than 50 cotton raincoats that inmates were assigned.

They made mannequin heads out of paper paint and hair acquired from the prison's barbers, which they left in their beds while they worked on the raft and on the night of their getaway.

Replicas of the dummy heads still lie in their former cells, which are popular stops with the more than a million tourists who visit Alcatraz Island every year.

Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, approximately 1.5 miles (2.4km) from the shore of San Francisco and was a federal prison from 1933 until 1963 for "desperate or irredeemable individuals".


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