Prisoners escaped via hole in cell ceiling

·2-min read

It took prison guards more than 12 hours to notice two young inmates had escaped through a hole in the ceiling after being held in COVID-19 isolation, a court has heard.

Shamus Tuohy, 22, and Matthew Piscopo, 19, placed pillows and toys in their beds to disguise themselves as sleeping when they escaped earlier this month, after causing $10,000 in damage to Victoria's Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.

They were 36 hours into lockdown in the admissions unit after being identified as COVID-19 close contacts when they hatched their escape plan, Ballarat Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday.

On August 6, Tuohy and Piscopo were in separate rooms and covered their windows with black sheets to discuss their escape, before each tried to break apart their bathroom sinks.

Piscopo used broken sink components to cut a hole into the plaster ceiling above him and climbed through it across to Tuohy's room about 9.24pm, prosecutors told the court.

Tuohy was unsuccessful in breaking apart his sink, so Piscopo kicked the plaster ceiling until he could climb through it.

They traversed the roof space and climbed down a ladder into a maintenance room, where they forced open the locked metal doors by breaking off a hinge.

External CCTV cameras captured the pair running across the prison car park to a nearby street, but guards did not notice they were missing until the following day.

"Malmsbury correctional staff conducted hourly checks on the accused and co-accused throughout the night but did not discover they had escaped until 10.30am on the 7th of August," prosecutor Clint Prebble said.

"They placed pillows and stuff toys under the blankets to give the appearance they were sleeping."

He said the prison's operations manager believed about $10,000 worth of damage was caused to bathrooms, roof and maintenance room door during the escape.

Tuohy spent three days on the run before he was arrested at a Corio motel, more than an hour's drive from the prison.

Police found him inside a motel room on August 8, where he tried to flee out the window before he was captured.

His lawyer James Gilfillan said Tuohy was frustrated after being held in COVID-19 lockdown when he planned the escape.

"The fact that this wasn't discovered until 10am the next morning is a bit concerning," he told the court.

"Ultimately, he does take responsibility for his actions that day."

Tuohy pleaded guilty to nine charges while appearing by video link from an adult prison, including for escaping from the prison and causing criminal damage.

Magistrate Mark Stratmann sentenced him to one year in prison for the escape and other offences he committed in May, not including 92 days already spent in custody.

Piscopo, who was arrested on the same day as Tuohy at a Ballarat home, will next appear in court on September 8.