US & Canada

New York prison worker charged with helping fugitives

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Media captionMrs Mitchell's defence lawyer entered a plea of not guilty

A US prison worker has pleaded not guilty to charges of helping two convicted murderers escape jail.

Workshop instructor Joyce Mitchell, 51, appeared in court accused of befriending Richard Matt and David Sweat and giving them contraband.

The pair escaped a week ago using power tools to cut through their cell walls at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York state.

A massive manhunt is currently under way for the pair.

Mrs Mitchell has been jailed for the weekend and will appear in court again on Monday. If convicted she faces up to eight years in prison.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Hundreds of police officers are searching for two convicted murders

Prosecutors have told US media that Mrs Mitchell gave Matt and Sweat hacksaw blades and drill bits, but did not provide the more powerful tools they used.

She also planned to be the pair's getaway driver but changed her mind at the last minute, said investigators who are also looking into whether she had improper ties to one of the men.

Mrs Mitchell's family has said she would not have helped an escape.

  • 5 June: David Sweat and Richard Matt escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora
  • 6-7 June: Possible sighting of pair in Dannemora
  • 9 June: Search focuses on Willsboro area after another possible sighting
  • 10 June: Police close off Route 374 between Dannemora and Cadyville and search expands to neighbouring Vermont
  • 11 June: Police dogs find food wrapper and footprint at suspected camp site near Dannemora
  • 12 June: Investigators arrest Joyce Mitchell, a prison worker, charging her with providing tool parts used in the breakout

Matt, 48, and Sweat, 34, cut through brick and steel to crawl through an underground pipe and emerge from a manhole outside the prison's 40ft walls.

The manhunt - involving hundreds of police officers searching stretching in New York state, Vermont and Canada - is now into its seventh day.

Bad weather has hampered the search, police say, but the men are also at a disadvantage if they have not found shelter.

"They've got to be cold, wet, tired and hungry," said Charles Guess, one of the investigators.

He had this message for the men: "We're coming for you, and we will not stop until you are caught."

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