The Australian Bushranger Who Was A Master Prison Escapist

Samuel Reason | January 16th, 2019

One Australian bushranger by the name of Joseph Johns had a very interesting talent: no cell or prison could hold him. In fact, he escaped from prison on so many occasions the authorities became frustrated and built him a special cell that was tailored to keep him inside. The governor even came and checked the work himself, to make sure it was up to standards.

This led to him announcing a gift that was much too tempting for Johns: if you can escape from this prison then we will simply forgive all your crimes. And well that is when the escaping really became interesting for Joseph Johns.

Nicknamed Moodyne Joe and born around 1926 in Wales, he worked in the copper mines until arrested for burglary and stealing. Receiving a 10-year penal sentence, he was promptly shipped off to Australia as a convict. But due to his great behavior on the boat & voyage over to the new land, he was allowed to just leave & go live in Australia. Setting up in Fremantle, he started a trade raising horses however, his life of crime caught up to him and Moodyne Joe was eventually arrested again: this time for horse stealing.

But he escaped during the night and this was the start of the legend of Moodyne Joe, authorities would catch him but he would simply be gone during the night. No prison or cell seemed to be able to hold Joe, and he would be off back with his friends and his life of crime within a few weeks. Forming a gang in the bushlands, he started to terrorize the local area performing petty robberies and burglaries to survive.

Eventually, he was sentenced to five years of hard labor and a special escape-proof cell was built. The governor issued this infamous statement:

If you get out again I will forgive you!

Moondyne disappeared through a hole he made in the wall a couple of nights later, the police started a manhunt but never found him: Moondyne was a freeman.

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