A prison escapee who was on the run for 29 years has handed himself into police – and it’s all because of Sydney’s lockdown.
Darko Desic, 64, escaped from Grafton jail in 1992 and fled to Avalon on Sydney’s well-heeled Northern Beaches where he managed to escape detection for decades.
But his cash-in-hand work as an odd job man for local wealthy families dried up when Sydney was put into lockdown to combat a Covid outbreak .
After losing his home and being forced to sleep on the beach, he decided he would be better off in prison so he ended his three decades on the run and turned himself in.
Darko Desic, 64, (pictured) escaped from Grafton jail in 1992 and fled to Avalon on the city’s well-heeled Northern Beaches where he managed to escape detection for decades
‘He slept on the beach on Saturday night and said, “stuff it, I’ll go back to prison where there’s a roof over my head”,’ police said.
Desic, born in the former Yugoslavia, was jailed for three years and eight months in 1991 after he was caught growing cannabis, but literally hacked his way out of jail after just 13 months.
In the middle of the night on August 1, 1992, he used a metal hacksaw to cut through the bars on his jail cell windows and squeezed out into the prison yard.
He then broke into a workshop and grabbed a pair of bolt cutters to get through the prison fence to freedom.
Darko Desic used a metal hacksaw to cut through the bars on his jail cell windows at Grafton prison (pictured) before stealing bolt cutters from a shed to get through the fence to freedom
Desic’s motivation was his fear that he would be deported at the end of his jail term, fearing punishment if he was sent back to his birth country, which at the time was fragmenting in a civil war.
He had earlier fled to Australia to avoid army service and fighting in the war.
Since busting out of jail, Desic had been living and working as a ‘Dougie the labourer’ in the quiet beachside suburb, staying out of trouble and avoiding any police confrontation.
He was briefly profiled on Australia’s Most Wanted TV show in 1998 when someone thought they spotted him in Nowra, south of Sydney.
On Sunday, Darko Desic went to Dee Why Police Station (pictured) and turned himself in, ending decades of deception
But unknown to him, his fugitive status ended 20 years after his escape, and even immigration officials gave up on finding him, granting him residency in 2008.
His modest but free life on the idyllic Northern Beaches came crashing down with the Covid lockdown, when home visits were outlawed.
On Sunday, the penniless Desic went to Dee Why Police Station and turned himself in, hoping to return to at least a bed and regular meals.
He has a minimum of just over one year and a one month to serve of his outstanding sentence before he can apply for parole.
Desic had been living and working as a ‘Dougie the labourer’ in the posh beachside suburb (pictured), staying out of trouble and avoiding any police confrontation
But he is also facing an additional maximum of seven years in jail for breaking out of prison in the first place after police charged him with escaping from lawful custody.
‘He said he’s been living in Avalon, just doing labouring and odd jobs for cash for almost three decades,’ the police source said.
‘He’s been completely law abiding, never come under attention, never been spoken to. He told us he never caused anyone any trouble so no one ever looked at him twice.’
But with the pandemic putting an end to his cash-in-hand work, he has become homeless.
Desic appeared by video link at Central Local Court on Tuesday and will be back in court on September 28.
Unsurprisingly, he did not apply for bail.
Lockdown has ended a fugitive’s incredible 29 years on the run since breaking out of prison and living free under the radar on Sydney’s Northern Beaches (pictured)