Detained escapee just wanted to visit his mother

JOHN Robert Cole just wanted to visit his sick mother - so he broke out of jail near Bathurst and was on the run for eight days. He went to Sydney and Melbourne and then caught a plane to Brisbane. Two days ago, however, he was spotted by eagle-eyed police on Kennedy Drive, West Tweed, and taken back into custody. Cole, who has family and personal ties on the Tweed and Lismore, claimed he was on his way to see his mum at Casino and would have given himself up after visiting her. Yesterday in the Tweed Heads Local Court, Magistrate Jeff Linden sent the 26-year-old career criminal back to jail, adding another nine months to his sentence. Cole has a lengthy criminal history with convictions for stealing, malicious damage, unlicensed driving, receiving stolen property and armed robbery. He had been serving a four-year term with a two-year non-parole period due to expire in November this year. He will now remain in jail at least until later next year. Cole's incredible three-state journey began at the Kirkconnell Correctional Centre, 30km east of Bathurst, about 11.30pm on March 16. He used sheets and blankets tied together to help him scale the prison's perimeter wall, according to a confession made to Tweed police. He hid in bushes for a number of hours before breaking a window to gain entry to a motel room at the nearby Shell roadhouse at Yetholme. In the motel room, Cole showered, made a cup of tea and then hit the road, taking a blanket with him. He made his way to Sydney, where relatives loaned him money, took a bus to Melbourne and then caught a flight to Brisbane, arriving on March 21. He was spotted in Kennedy Drive near the Caltex service station about 12.35pm last Sunday by two officers from the Tweed/Byron Target Action Group patrolling in an unmarked car. Cole's description had been circulated interstate after his escape, and one of the Tweed officers knew him from a previous encounter. When he was picked up, Cole was accompanied by a woman, believed to be his partner, who was understood to also have given him money, police said. When picked up, Cole admitted being an escapee and was interviewed at the Tweed Heads Police Station, where he was held in custody until yesterday's court appearance. In court, Cole had close-cropped dark hair and a sullen expression, with a blue and red jersey over a yellow t-shirt. In court, Lawyer Nicole Stubbs told Mr Linden that Cole previously lived in Lismore and had cared for his%seven-year-old child. While in jail he became concerned about his sick mother who has heart problems and was "in and out of hospital". "He tried to arrange a visit to see his mother, and to get a transfer to Grafton (jail)," Ms Stubbs said. But the elderly woman's illness had made it difficult to arrange the visit. "This (escape) was a last resort," Ms Stubbs said. She said Cole's intention had always been to get to Casino to see his mother and "he intended to hand himself in after that". "He was co-operative (with police) and is remorseful." Mr Linden said Cole had a shocking criminal record, but noted the break-and-enter offence was "at the lower end of the scale". Cole pleaded guilty to escaping from custody and to breaking and entering. He was sentenced to six months jail on the escape charge and three months for break and enter.



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