How Far Can You Run?
What if you had to become a fugitive in the next 24 hours with only the resources you could find in that time to help you on your way? How far could you run?
This article from the Scotsman recounts the pathetic flight of a child molester who was rapidly collared in Thailand: transvestite helps capture suspected paedophile. (How's that for a headline?) Here's how the Thai cops found him.
After an alert from Interpol, Police Lieutenant Colonel Phanthana Nutchanart sent his men to trawl transvestite hangouts in Bangkok's Patpong red-light district and the seaside town of Pattaya, infamous as a haven for misfits and perverts. After seeing a picture of Neil taken by security cameras on his arrival at Bangkok airport a week ago, transvestites in Pattaya said they had seen him with a 25-year-old cross-dresser called Ohm. But the pair had already fled the town.
Police traced Ohm's real name on Thailand's national citizens database, found he came from the north-eastern province of Chaiyaphume and - crucially - got his telephone number. They then began going through his phone records, allowing them to chart the pair's progress from Pattaya to Chaiyaphume and ultimately Nakhon Ratchasima.
The last number dialled on Ohm's phone was to a friend in Nakhon Ratchasima, who eventually told police Ohm was trying to rent a house in the province and passed on the address. It was a low-tech end to a manhunt that started three years ago in Germany, when specialist child crime officers found images on the internet of a man raping young boys in Vietnam and Cambodia. Some of his victims were believed to be as young as six.
How could the pedophile have had a chance? Alone, with only a fixed amount of money? In a country where he couldn't speak the language? But in case anyone thinks nobody can do it, there's the 30 year saga of former Japanese intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda, who on the confines of small Lubang Island, right off the east coast of Luzon, refused to believe that the Emperor had surrendered and evaded capture past the point where he was declared legally dead in Japan. Over three decades Hiroo Onoda "killed some thirty Philippine inhabitants of the island and engaged in several shootouts with the police" before he was finally persuaded the war was over.
In 1974 the Japanese government located Onoda's commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He flew to Lubang and informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms. Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer's order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his Arisaka Type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades.
How about that?
Not in the same league, but nevertheless impressive was the fugitive career of Eric Rudolph.
A latter-day version of North Carolina's legendary hermits and hunters, Rudolph disappeared in early 1998, shortly after the FBI received a tip that he might be the Birmingham bomber. He had fled his trailer, leaving the lights on, the door open and the air conditioning running and taking a month's worth of food, including raisins, green beans, tuna and trail mix. More than 200 federal agents fanned out across a 500,000-acre swath of North Carolina's craggy peaks, caves and snake-infested underbrush. Helicopters with infrared scopes scoured the land; listening posts and cameras were set up. Yet by mid-2000 the feds had largely dispersed.
On Saturday the authorities got lucky. In the early morning hours [of June 7, 2003], rookie cop Jeff Postell spotted a thin man in an alley behind the Save-A-Lot Food store in Murphy. The man, relatively clean-cut and wearing a camouflage jacket and sneakers, dashed behind a stack of milk crates. "He was very cooperative, not a bit disrespectful," says Postell, 21, who arrested him. Another officer called to the scene recognized Rudolph.
Onoda survived in a confined space in a hostile human environment. Eric Rudolph spent five years on the FBI's Most Wanted List hiding in the Appalachian wilderness, during which federal and amateur search teams scoured the area without success.
The obvious advantages these two men had over the pedophile was that they were willing to patiently endure privation and solitude for extended periods. Onoda subsisted for months on green bannanas and nothing but green bannanas. Eric Rudolph was captured scavenging food from a supermarket dumpster. The suspected pedophile was captured in a house with his transvestite boyfriend.
Ultimately a fugitive is fleeing from people: his hunters, people in their employ, people who may inadvertently betray him. I wonder how many persons can walk out the door in the next 24 hours and walk back into the light only after 30 years entirely on their own power.