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Fugitive of 30 Years Surrenders Because Pandemic Life Sucks

Homeless and jobless, Darko Desic was done sleeping on an Australian beach
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2021 9:10 AM CDT
Fugitive of 30 Years Surrenders Because Pandemic Life Sucks
This undated photo shows Darko Desic, who was 35 when he escaped from prison in 1992.   (New South Wales Police)

(Newser) – An unfortunate consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have been turned out of their homes. Fortunately for Australian authorities, one of those people is a 29-year fugitive who decided he'd rather have a roof over his head, even if it was in prison. Darko Desic had served a third of a 3.5-year sentence for growing marijuana when he allegedly used a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to cut through the bars of his cell window and a perimeter fence at the Grafton Correctional Center, almost 400 miles north of Sydney, between the evening of July 31 and the morning of Aug. 1, 1992, per the Sydney Morning Herald and the AP.

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Except for a mention on Australia's Most Wanted, which described a tip that he'd been spotted in Nowra, 120 miles south of Sydney, Desic escaped notice for the next 29 years, earning cash as a builder and handyman known as "Dougie," per 9 News. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Desic struggled to find work amid a summer lockdown, and was soon evicted from his home in Avalon, a beachside suburb of Sydney, per ABC Australia. The 64-year-old then took to sleeping amid sand dunes. "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,'" a police source tells Australia's Daily Telegraph, per the AP.

Desic surrendered at the Dee Why Police Station on Sunday morning. The fugitive, born in the former Yugoslavia, reportedly told police that he feared he would be deported after serving his initial sentence and expected retaliation in his former country for failing to fulfill mandatory military service. He is not an Australian citizen but was reportedly granted Australian residency while on the run in 2008, per the AP. He appeared in court on Tuesday on a charge of escaping lawful custody, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, and was denied bail ahead of another hearing on Sept. 28. (Read more fugitive stories.)

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