Friday, October 19, 2007

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.


Blogger Jay Currie said...

It is a very good question.

Credit card and a passport...well if you are not on a watchlist, anywhere in the world.

However, assume you are on a watchlist and both your passport and credit cards are toast. Now what.

Far is really not the issue, rather how much time can you buy yourself? Another city, switch a social class (Heinlein - Time Enough For Love), how much money have you got?

To "go to ground" makes far more sense than to take your chances on a plane. The Greyhound, the ferries, the low end of Vernon, BC in the off're gone.

Helps to have a trade;but a strong back and a mumble about "divorce" to get paid in cash.

Gone forever in 24 hours withing 1000 miles of where I live.

10/20/2007 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger MG said...

"Running Man" by Steven King

It's not a dystopic warning -- it is a playbook!

10/20/2007 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There are two schools of thought about escape. One is that you should run where your social network is most dense (so that you can "hide among"). The other is to flee where the social network is most sparse; that is, where nobody knows you.

10/20/2007 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The best way to avoid capture is to convince your pursuers to stop chasing you. And short of photos of the local sheriff in bed with a dead boy, the best way to corrupt the will of the police is to convince everyone you are dead. So a well placed suicide note and identification documents, a corpse either badly decomposed or burnt to a crisp with special destructive attention paid to the jaw area, and a little luck that no one does a DNA analysis and you are half way to freedom. Then it just becomes a matter of avoiding any ex-wives or girlfriends who may recognize you despite your new beard on long hair.

10/20/2007 02:45:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The distribution of the time fugitives spend at large appears to be somewhat bimodal. If you look at the lists of the "Ten Most Wanted" and count the time they were on the list, there are a large number who are caught in days. Then there are another large group who stay at large for two to five years.

You would guess that the first month at large constitutes the greatest period of danger to the fugitive. If you could actually vanish inside a supplied cave for the first month the chances are the pursuit will have diminished considerably. You would also guess that successful long term fugitives have found a fairly secure mode or groove in which they can avoid identification or have a new identity altogther.

10/20/2007 03:18:00 AM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

First, a minor point: the Thai person was a Katoey, which really means pre- or non-op transsexual. Don't think of her as a "man in a dress", more like a woman with a severe disfigurement.

And a really, really rotten taste in Sugar Daddies. Ewwwwww.

Second, as someone who is either Transsexual with a really interesting endocrine system, or a really badly Intersexed woman (that last is the official diagnosis anyway), I have some insight into disappearing.

Most TS people do it, you see. It's called "going stealth". Now there are degrees to this. The ultimate is when you don't even tell your husband.

Stealth means cutting ties permanently with your previous life, acquiring new identity documentation, a life history, and so on. Like a witness protection program, only more so, and without any help. It means never speaking with any of your family, never speaking with any of your friends, and preferably living overseas. Certainly abandoning your previous career.

Semi-stealth is a lot easier. There you just don't tell anyone who doesn't need to know. You're still able to contact family etc, and may not even give up your career, though it's recommended you do.

Because I lost nothing - as opposed to losing everything, the usual case - I'm a very semi stealth indeed. Some around me, like my PhD supervisor, have known me for 20 years. To others, I'm just a typical frumpy female academic. That suits me.

10/20/2007 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Vicariously, via DVD, I'd be good for about 120 Episodes.
Get to see my mom and sisters by having them appear in the show, then cheat the cops by checking out at 49 with a heart attack.

10/20/2007 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Hawkins said...

Then there's the Einhorn method: be a left-wing icon.

10/20/2007 06:05:00 AM  
Blogger E and J's Film Crew said...

Rudolph and Onoda were good, but frankly, I think that Whitey Bulger has it all over them. On the FBI 10 most wanted for 12 years and now 78 years old. Most recent sightings in London, Italy and Uruguay. Beats crap out of eatin' green bananas.

10/20/2007 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

Regarding the headline, the New York Times newspaper uses similar ones.

"Hiding among" , as wretcherd describes, characterizes tactic of abortion clinic bombers and bin laden.

10/20/2007 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Einhorn's bail was set at $40,000 at the request of his attorney, Arlen Specter; Einhorn was released from custody in advance of his trial by paying 10% of the bond's value, or $4,000. This bail was paid, not by Einhorn, but by Barbara Bronfman, a Montreal socialite and a member of the family that owns the Seagram liquor company.

10/20/2007 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

I guess the survival and evasion training was better in the Japanese army and in Rudolph's backwoods youth than in the pedophile school that Neil attended.

I'd rather do it theMark Rich way if I had to. Having billions helps.

I always liked the Judd Hirsch movie, Running on Empty, in which he plays a fugitive that had bombed something during the VN war and was on the run.

10/20/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

Utopia Pky,

It does sometimes help to have friends in low places.

10/20/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Eric Rudolph of Olympics/abortion clinic bombing fame "survived during his years as a fugitive by camping in the woods, gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetable gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in a nearby town"

10/20/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger doolz said...

Albert Johnson.

10/20/2007 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Maybe there's some kind of fugitive Valhalla where people like Albert Johnson, Eric Rudolph and Hiroo Onoda are eventually reunited. Reading the Albert Johnson saga, one is almost compelled to cheer, though really, what is one cheering for?

I guess you can take the efforts of those tough hombres as the upper limit of how far you can go without a support structure, money and corruption to protect you. With money and corruption, you can stay afloat for decades, as Norman Hsu proved. But somehow that seems like cheating.

10/20/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Roman Polanski's done pretty well with evading arrest since California tried to arrest him on sex charges in 1978. He was also accused of abusing a sorta-child, aged 13.

I wondered, too, why Paris Hilton didn't take her passport and one of the Hilton jets (surely they have private planes) and flee the country for a vacation before she let them put her in jail. Then she could return after a summer in Monte Carlo, and relocated to New York or Miami, neither of which is enamored of California or Beverly Hills and probably wouldn't extradite her. I can't believe Hollywood has *that* great of a club scene that she couldn't do without it.

10/20/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Linda Darby arrested this week after escaping from 35 years ago from a life sentence in an Indiana prison for mudering her second husband?

She started her life over in Tennessee raising a new family and maybe living the life she always wanted. To be successful she had to give up her life to be alive.

It might be the questions of what we are escaping from and what we are escaping to, from sin to salvation, from here to eternity.

10/20/2007 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Robbrott: It might be the questions of what we are escaping from and what we are escaping to, from sin to salvation, from here to eternity.

Flee to Christ.

10/20/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger The Anti-Jihadist said...

I've heard that in some corrupt third world locales, a death certificate is easily bought from the local crooked bureaucrats for trifling sums of several thousand dollars. A lot of life insurance scams take advantage of this.

In this case, have the death cert sent back to whoever is chasing you, and it just might work, and you're off the hook. If not, there are other options for those without scruples.

New IDs and passports are also often available in these same corrupt third world places to anyone with money, no questions asked of course (higher prices usually mean higher quality fakes).

It just so happens that Thailand, in addition to being the sexual tourism and katoey capital of the world, is also THE place in Southeast Asia, if not the world, to buy and sell fake ID papers, especially passports.

I don't think this crossed that Canadian's mind, however, as he fled with his katoey lover.

10/20/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

One could "hide" Mafia-style. Don't hide at all. Instead, make sure people know that if they attempt to turn you in, they will wind up sleeping with the fish.

That's what guerrilla leaders typically do. Of course, money, corruption, and good friends help too.

10/20/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As I gather more internet skills I notice that other skills atrophy.

This worries me. Not so much that I do anything about it.

I do watch two survivor series where guys go out into the wild and live for a week or two in various wildernesses around the world. They forage off the land, hunt for small critters and create makeshift shelters.

10/20/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hsu Who?
Small time compared to the staying power one gains practicing the pick the toilet paper off the public bathroom floor excercise.
The Perks are outstanding, in a wide-stance sort of way.

10/20/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Kathleen Soliah aka "Sara Jane Olsen" spent 26 years "on the run." Aided and abetted like Eric Rudolph by anti-American, anti-Law Enforcement ideologues. Hiding in plain sight as a suburban yuppie mom.

She ate no green bananas. Did not scrounge in dumpsters. Lived a middle class life.

Bin Laden, Zawahari, Soliah, as noted Polanski, that hippie leftist millionaire that dismembered his girlfriend and fled to France (Ira Einhorn), or heck our friend Norman Hsu ... all fled into "friendly" territories where the penalty for turning in the fugitive was more severe than the rewards for helping him.

What successful fugitives do in the main (the Japanese guy being the exception) is pit one powerful social network (their "friendly" area) against another. In Waziristan, for example, the penalties for helping collect on the reward for AQ figures including bin Laden and Zawahari (the latter is CERTAINLY alive) are so severe: hideous torture before death, that no reward is sufficient and the police network non-existent. This also explains the other fugitives on the list success.

Father back, Jessie James, Butch and Sundance, Bonnie and Clyde, all succeeded only so long as their social network's power exceeded that of their pursuers. [The Einhorn and Polanski examples in France, or Nazis in South America, play to the local anti-American or anti-Semitic feelings of the men in power, naturally.]

Rather than the "power" of the State and it's network of police, we are entering the era of weak power of the State and nearly impotent police networks. Sufficient against lone pedophiles perhaps. But not much else.

10/20/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Just in case anybody is considering an identity makeover, this website may help...!

Vanishing Point: how to disappear in America without a trace

10/22/2007 08:04:00 AM  

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