The Government has declined to release a report on the escape of a major international criminal from a West Yorkshire police station – despite the passage of 30 years.
The Home Office confirmed this week that it held a copy of a report into the escape of cocaine smuggler Nikolaus Maria Chrastny from Dewsbury Police Station in October 1987 but it wouldn’t be making it public.
It rejected a Freedom of Information request on the grounds that disclosing the report could prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and because the report contained personal data.
Earlier this year West Yorkshire Police said it could “neither confirm nor deny” it held a copy of the report.
The request for information comes 30 years after an embarrassing episode for the authorities who were criticised at the time for a “catalogue of blunders” which allowed German-born Chrastny to escape from custody.
Chrastny, wanted for a jewellery raid in Munich, had been arrested in London and ‘turned’ by Customs officers and was apparently ready to reveal all about an international cocaine distribution cartel – as well as blow the whistle on several allegedly corrupt detectives.
He was taken to Dewsbury in order that he was as far away from those he was accusing.
After escaping he left a note which said: “Gentlemen, I have not taken this step lightly – the tools (for the escape) have been in my wash kit for several years in preparation for just such an occasion. Greetings, Nick.”
It was reported at the time that Customs officers were responsible for lapses in security which allowed Chrastny to escape, using two files which he used to saw through bars.
In the Underworld History of Britain, author Frank Fraser wrote that Chrastny was allowed all kinds of items in his Dewsbury cell, including a TV, stereo, beer, cigars and jars of chutney.
“No one heard the sawing because he’d got the TV and the stereo on...the day before he’s being taken back to court in London he’s managed to get through the bars. His cell didn’t have a plug in it of course, and the cable for his telly ran from the medical room opposite, so that couldn’t be locked. And that didn’t have any bars on the windows, so he’s up and running, across the prison yard, and he’s never seen again; not here anyway.”
Chrastny is thought to have fled to South America.
His wife, a former West German traffic policewoman, was jailed in 1989 for helping her husband’s £100m plot to land Colombian cocaine on the Cornish coast.
She was cleared of helping her 45-year-old husband to escape by smuggling hacksaw blades hidden in the spines of books into his police station cell.
In April 1989 the Examiner reported that a number of senior police officers at Dewsbury had been disciplined since the escape following an inquiry by Northumbria police. The police probe had ruled out corruption.