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Police blunder: wrong man freed

The man, 31, walked out the watchouse door about 6.30am after answering to the name of a man who was to be released on bail.
The man, 31, walked out the watchouse door about 6.30am after answering to the name of a man who was to be released on bail. Craig Warhurst

GYMPIE Police have admitted to an embarrassing bungle that saw the wrong prisoner released from custody last week.

It is believed the prisoner escaped on Thursday by pretending to be an inmate whose name was called for release.

The man, 31, walked out the door of the watchouse about 6.30am after answering to the name of a man who was to be released on bail.

Officer in Charge of Gympie Police, Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Poole said the alleged offender had been arrested for shoplifting and was found to be wanted on a couple of warrants for failing to appear in Bundaberg Court on a number of property-related charges.

Snr Sgt Poole confirmed the man signed for the inmate’s property, which included a wallet and clothing, and discarded everything behind The Gympie Times building – minus the money.

He said it was a case of mistaken identity that was currently under internal investigation.

“He was a low-level threat to the community (and) he’s since been located and returned to custody,” Snr Sgt Poole said.

The Gympie Times learned both prisoners had shared a cell overnight until one of the men was taken to hospital for a medical assessment. It was believed the man, 46, was still in hospital when his name was called for release.

He told The Gympie Times that police officers who picked him up from the hospital said he didn’t look anything like his photo on the charge sheet.

Officers discovered the mix-up when they investigated the dumped property around 9.30am and a drivers licence was found, belonging to another man who was still in custody.

It was alleged the escapee used the stolen money to get to Toowoomba where he was located by police and arrested on Saturday.

He appeared in Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Monday and was remanded in custody to appear again on January 6.

The man will face original charges from Bundaberg of six counts of breaking and entering, four counts of fraud and two counts each of entering a premises with intent, wilful damage, stealing, breaching bail, and one count of entering a dwelling with intent by break.

He will now face additional charges of escaping custody and stealing as well as two counts of failing to appear.

It is understood Gympie Police will be posting a cheque to the Rainbow Beach man to replace the stolen money. He told The Gympie Times yesterday he would not be taking the matter any further.

He was a low level threat to the community and has since been located.

Gympie Times

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