Two men recaptured in Hebei after fleeing Liaoning jail on Thursday
The warden of a prison in northeastern China's Liaoning province has been dismissed after a prison break by two inmates during the National Day holiday.
Authorities in Liaoning launched an investigation as soon as the two escapees were recaptured on Saturday, the Liaoning Prison Administrative Bureau said in an online statement on Sunday.
The warden of Lingyuan No 3 Prison, where the inmates were held, has been dismissed from his position, it said.
The bureau has also suspended the head of the prison's stability maintenance team, it said, adding that other employees will be held accountable once all the facts are ascertained.
The two inmates, 33-year-old Wang Lei and 39-year-old Zhang Guilin, escaped on Thursday, according to a notice released by the public security bureau in Chaoyang, Liaoning, which said they stole prison guards' uniforms to make their escape.
Wang was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old child in December 2013, but that was commuted to life imprisonment in December, while Zhang received a life sentence for robbery in 2009 and was transferred to the prison in 2014, the notice said.
The first trace of the fugitives was at a kiosk about 20 kilometers from the prison around 11 am on Thursday. They left after buying sausages, cigarettes and bread, online news outlet The Paper reported.
Around 5 pm that day they were spotted at another kiosk in a village in Pingquan county, in neighboring Hebei province, where they stayed for about 10 minutes to buy liquor, beer, mineral water and other drinks, and sausages.
Police arrived at the kiosk to investigate shortly after the two left. Surveillance video footage showed Wang entering the village alone from the south and leaving the same way.
Li Xue, a village employee, told The Paper that about 800 police quickly arrived and that the village assembled nearly 1,000 villagers to assist in the manhunt.
They started searching from the north and south of the village and deployed patrols at road junctions, Li said.
A local government employee surnamed Sun told The Paper: "All the people in town were engaged in the search. They'd heard that the escapees had committed murder, so to ensure their safety, they were grouped with town government officials. They helped the police lead the way, set up road barriers, delivered water and food, or provided logistical support."
Sun said he and several town officials, together with many villagers, went into an orchard and searched the woods all night.
"We didn't sleep at all," he said. "Only when we heard that the criminals were captured some 60 km away did we feel relieved and returned home to rest."
The public security bureau in Chengde, Hebei, said on social media that it had canceled National Day holiday leave and assembled more than 700 police officers and mobilized 600 town officials after being asked to search villages and towns neighboring Liaoning.
On Friday night, it dispatched 430 officers to Pingquan along with 100 prison guards.
At noon on Saturday, drones they were using found traces of one criminal, and the police rushed to the area while sending a message to Liaoning police. They began searching key locations and captured Wang at 1:20 pm. Zhang was caught 20 minutes later.
More than 2,300 officers were involved in the manhunt. In a car crash during the operation, two police officers died and two others were seriously injured.
It was the third time Zhang had escaped custody since 2009, according to court records available online.