24 Jan, 2023 @ 18:14
1 min read

Real life Shawshank: RGP officer recalls the incredible story of the prisoner who tunnelled a hole out of his cell and wandered Gibraltar each night 

John Field 8

A PRISONER who painstakingly tunnelled a hole to escape his cell each night and wander the streets of Gibraltar was only given away after he was spotted by someone from the Rock’s parole board.

The incredible story – straight from the Shawshank Redemption, a film released just the year before – only recently came to light in the memoirs of Superintendent John Field, whose career in the Royal Gibraltar Police spanned 30 years.

It was one hot night in the summer of 1996, after officers had arrived at the old Moorish Castle Prison, that they found a prisoner had painstakingly dug an escape hole through his cell wall.

John Field 8
Superintendent John Field stands below the tunnel that a prisoner had incredibly dug out of his cell

Rather cunningly, the hole was hidden by a poster, allowing the man to escape every evening, when he would roam Gibraltar freely, cavorting with locals and pinching what wasn’t his before returning to his cell the next morning with his loot. 

A young and wide-eyed Field was dispatched to investigate the mysterious case of the night-time wanderer when early in his career.

The daring impersonator of Andy Dufresne, Stephen King’s character who spent 20 years tunnelling out of his own cell, was eventually rumbled only after a fair few jaunts abroad in the clear air of temporary freedom.

As Field recalls: “I remember getting a call from the acting Superintendent of the Prison, Daniel Agius. 

“I went to the prison and he showed me this massive hole in the wall.”

John Field 6
A young Superintendent John Field in his office not long after the infamous tunnelling prisoner

“The prisoner had been removing clay and cement and was going out at night, before returning and distributing alcohol and all the stuff he was stealing. 

“Someone on his parole board even thought he saw him out one evening, which of course he denied.

“He covered the hole with a map of the world like in The Shawshank Redemption. 

It went undetected for a good time until eventually we realised what was happening and he was interviewed, charged and convicted.”

That was just one of Superintendents Field’s more interesting cases in a career that has spanned over three decades – making him the second longest serving officer in the RGP after the Commissioner, Richard Ullger.

A former plumber, John joined the RGP on March 23, 1992 at the age of 21.

“I was the youngest officer in the force when I joined. And now I’m about to leave, I’ll be one of the oldest!” he joked.

Supt. John Field
Superintendent John Field today with plans for his retirement coming up in 2024


Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? walter@theolivepress.es

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