Relatives say that three inmates who escaped from the notorious Alcatraz prison in 1962 survived the perilous trip to shore on a makeshift boat. The Anglin brothers, John and Clarence, escaped from Alcatraz with a fellow inmate, Frank Morris, in June 1962.
The prisoners made the daring escape from the prison on a makeshift boat made from raincoats.
The men were never seen after they escaped. After years of investigation, authorities concluded in 1979 that they drowned in the attempt to paddle their boat to shore in San Francisco.
Although the FBI and prison authorities have claimed over the years that the men did not make it to shore alive, the relatives have come forward for the first time with the claim that they have proof the prisoners paddled safely to shore.
According to the New York Post, two nephews of the Anglin brothers, David, 48, and Ken Widner, 54, have come out with evidence they believe refutes the assumption that the men died at sea.
The nephews said they were willing to cooperate with the authorities to set the records straight before their mother, Mary Anglin Widner, the sister of the Anglin brothers, passes away.
According to the Daily Mail, the new evidence, which has revived the cold case, consists of handwritten and signed Christmas cards the mother of the Anglin brothers received over three years after the daring escape. The nephews also claim they have a photo that proves that the Anglins were alive in the 1970s.
The Widners said the men could be alive today in their 80s.
However, the alleged evidence has not been released. They will be shown in a new History Channel documentary to be aired on Monday.
The men escaped from the prison through openings chiseled in their cell walls. They placed dummy papier-mâché heads with human hair on their bunks to deceive prison officials and allow more time to escape.
After they exited the prison building through the roof they, escaped on a makeshift raft constructed from inflated raincoats. It is believed the men set sail from Alcatraz in a bid to reach San Francisco.
And although they were never seen again, their raft was discovered on the San Francisco shore the day after they escaped.
Prison and FBI officials concluded after a lengthy investigation that the men drowned and the case was close in 1979.
Investigators even claimed in 1963 that they found bones washed up on the shore in San Francisco, which belonged to one of the men. But DNA tests conducted by comparing with the DNA from the exhumed body of Alfred Anglin, the elder brother of John and Clarence, proved that the bones could not have belonged to any of the Anglin brothers. But the bones could have belonged to the third escapee, Frank Morris, who had no surviving relative.
According to David and Ken Widner, the family kept quiet about the evidence over the decades. The decision to come forward now to set the records straight was motivated partly by desire to confound Alcatraz officials who boast that no inmate ever escaped alive from the prison.
They said they were also motivated by desire to set the records straight before their mother and the sister of the Anglins, Marie Anglin Widner, passes away.
According to David Widner, “[Alcatraz officials] were not willing to say, ‘Maybe [the escapees] did make it.’ That gave me the motive to prove them wrong.”
David and Ken presented the body of evidence, consisting of Christmas cards and photo, to Art Roderick, a retired U.S. marshal who has worked on the case for at least two decades.
Roderick took the Christmas cards to a handwriting expert who confirmed their authenticity.
The family also presented a photograph, which they claim proves the men were alive in the 1970s.
Investigators found the photo evidence more compelling because they were unable to determine the date that the Christmas cards, which had no postage, were written. Investigators thought the photos could be evidence that the men escaped to South America.
“This is absolutely the best actionable lead we’ve had,” Roderick told the New York Post.
“When you work these types of cases, there’s a feeling you get when stuff starts to fall into place. I’m getting this feeling now,” he added.
According to the New York Post, Roderick is organizing a search for the brothers in Brazil. But there is concern that even if the men are found, international laws may not allow them to be extradited to the U.S.
According to the New York criminal defense lawyer Arkady Bukh, “The legal status of the escapees is an interesting discussion. When the three men crossed the second of two 12-foot fences, their sentencing ‘clocks’ stopped. Their sentences will begin again when, and if, they are ever captured and returned to prison.”
“Within days of their escape, warrants for their arrest were issued. If they are living, and eventually caught, then federal prosecutors will have to determine whether to charge them, on those warrants, for the escape. If prosecutors decide not to charge them, or if the escapees are never caught, then the warrants will expire when each man reaches his 100th birthday. Some observers feel the men escaped and eventually made their way to South America. If they did, international laws may not even allow extradition to America.”
As if anticipating that new leads could surface, the U.S. Department of Justice had released images in 2012 showing what the prisoners may look like five decades after they escaped.
While some hold that the men were unlikely to have survived conditions at sea, computer simulations by a team of Dutch experts led by Dr. Rolf Holt, suggests that if they had escaped at the right time they could have paddled safely to San Francisco.
“Only in the time window between (11pm) and midnight do they get close enough to the shore to have a chance to survive.”
David Widner said that another piece of evidence he would present in a book he is working on comes from a statement by Whitey Bulger, a notorious Boston crime boss, who said he met the Anglins in Alcatraz.
According to Widner, Bulger told him in a 2014 letter that he had coached the brothers on how to navigate the currents at sea and arrive at shore safely.
“He taught them that when you disappear, you have to cut all ties. He told me in a letter, ‘This is the mistake that I made. These brothers undoubtedly had done exactly what I told them to do.'”
Bulger claimed he also advised the brothers that when the escape they must cut all ties and adapt to new lives as fugitives.