On This Day: Three inmates escape from Alcatraz prison in most infamous breakout ever

Julian Gavaghan

June 12, 1962
: Three Alcatraz inmates made the most audacious escape in the history of the infamous island prison on this day in 1962 – and the trio remain officially missing.

Bank-robbing brothers Clarence and John Anglin, along with Frank Morris, left the island on a makeshift raft after burrowing out of their cells with teaspoons.

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Until that point no inmate had ever successfully escaped the island, which is 1.5 miles from San Francisco and was home to some of America’s most notorious criminals.

A British Pathé newsreel shows the dummies – made with soap, toilet paper and their own hair – that they left in their beds to trick guards during hourly cell inspections.

Also shown were the wall coverings they fabricated to hide the holes they had dug, which allowed them to climb into a ventilator shaft and onto the roof. Coast guard boats and army helicopters were filmed scouring San Francisco Bay during the manhunt – but it was to no avail.

By this time the search began, the escapees had long since departed on the inflated rafts they fashioned by gluing together the prison's standard-issue raincoats.

They left the island at 10pm and haven’t been seen since, although they are presumed to have drowned in the treacherous waters surrounding the island.

If alive today, Clarence Anglin would be 82 and John Anglin 83. Morris would be 86.

Their daring breakout inspired the 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood.

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The prison - which opened in 1934 and had incarcerated villains including Al Capone, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly - shut on March 21, 1963.

Of the 36 prisoners who tried to get out, 23 were caught, six were shot and killed, two drowned and five are recorded as ‘missing and presumed drowned’.

Alcatraz, which had previously served as a military prison, now annually hosts 1.3million tourists who flock to the island by ferry.