Evadé, 64, sentenced after 29 years on the run in Sydney


SYDNEY (AP) – A 64-year-old fugitive who surrendered to Australian police after a Sydney lockdown left him jobless and homeless was on Thursday sentenced to two more months behind bars for being escaped from prison almost 30 years ago.

Darko Desic has been in custody again since mid-September when he entered a police station in the seaside suburb of Dee Why and confessed to escaping from Grafton Prison, 620 kilometers (390 miles) to the north in 1992.

He pleaded guilty to escaping legal custody and was sent back to jail to serve the remaining 14 months of a 33-month sentence for cultivating marijuana.

In Sydney’s Central Local Court on Thursday, Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said she had no choice but to impose a prison sentence for escape.

She added two months to her sentence. The offense is punishable by a potential maximum of 10 years.

She admitted that Desic escaped due to “real fears” that he would be deported after serving his sentence in his native country then known as Yugoslavia. He feared having to serve in the army during the wars of 1991-1995 which led to the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Outside of court, defense attorney Paul McGirr told reporters Desic recently received a letter from the Australian Border Force advising him that he would be deported upon release from prison.

“Keeping in mind that he doesn’t have the same country to become Yugoslavia again,” McGirr said. “I hope someone with some common sense is watching this.”

It is not known to which country Desic could be deported. He is not an Australian citizen.

To escape prison, Desic, 35, used a hacksaw blade to cut the bars on the cell windows. He found bolt cutters in a shed within the prison compound and cut a perimeter fence.

He then spent three decades in the upscale Sydney North Beach suburb near where he surrendered to the police.

Desic has not committed any other crimes but has lived under the constant burden of not knowing when he might be arrested, McGirr said.

His local community where he had worked as a handyman had grown up “to love and respect him,” McGirr said.

An outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus locked Sydney from June 26 to October 11, drying up Desic’s income and leaving him sleeping in sand dunes.

A public fundraising campaign had raised Australian $ 30,000 ($ 23,000) to cover his legal fees and housing needs since his arrest, McGirr said.

The magistrate said the decades since his last conviction have established that he has changed.

“He clearly had a big impact on the community,” Atkinson said.

Prosecutor Scott Williams said the case raised a “romantic idea” of escape and called for full-time jail time.

This was necessary to ensure that other prisoners considering escape knew they would be punished “no matter how long after the escape once captured,” Williams said.

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