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Monday 18 December 2017

Mystery of the Alcatraz escape

ANNIVERSARY: Sisters visit Rock 50 years on

FOR 20th century crime buffs, few capers match the intrigue and ingenuity of the Escape from Alcatraz, the 1962 prison break three inmates pulled off with stolen spoons, dummy heads and a raincoat raft.

For Marie Widner and Mearl Taylor, the fabled flight from the Rock is all about family.

The two Florida women are the younger sisters of John and Clarence Anglin, who along with fellow prisoner Frank Morris, disappeared from the federal prison on Alcatraz Island 50 years ago. Whether the three men perished in the chilly San Francisco Bay remains a subject of hot speculation because their bodies were never found.



Anniversary

"I've always believed they made it, and I haven't changed my mind about that," Widner (76) said while visiting the former penitentiary to commemorate the anniversary of her siblings' daring getaway.

Widner's sons arranged for their mother and aunt to visit Alcatraz because they wanted, in Kenneth Widner's words, "to clear up some misnomers about the boys".

Among those that rankle Mearl Taylor the most, is the idea that her brothers were simpletons who benefited from a plan crafted by Morris and the belief that Clarence and John were hardcore criminals because they ended up in a prison designed for "desperate or irredeemable individuals."

Like Morris, the Anglin brothers were serving sentences for bank robbery, but it was the pair's history of previous escape attempts, coupled with a failed attempt to sneak Clarence out of the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, that got them sent to Alcatraz in 1960 and 1961.

hnews@herald.ie

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