News of plot evokes memories of the dramatic 1987 jailbreak

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NEWS of the audacious helicopter escape plot emerged - bizarrely - almost 25 years to the day after HMP Gartree was the location for one of the most dramatic – and daring – prison escapes of all time.

At 3.16pm on Thursday, December 10, 1987, a helicopter landed on the prison’s sportsfield and picked up John Kendall and Sydney Draper.

Kendall, an East London gangland boss, was serving eight years for burglary while Draper had been jailed for life for murder and theft.

The escape began when Andrew Russell booked a Bell Long Ranger helicopter for a trip from Stansted to Leicester Airport.

As it approached Leicester he pulled a gun on the pilot and forced him to land in the prison exercise yard.

Once Kendall and Draper were on board, the pilot was ordered to fly to a nearby golf course. But mist forced the helicopter to land in Harborough’s Welland Industrial Estate.

The escaped convicts then hijacked a van and drove towards Corby on the A427 before forcing a woman out of her vehicle near Dingley.

They abandoned that car in Corby before taking the driver of another car hostage and driving to Sheffield.

The Mail revealed in its December 17 edition that a dummy run of the prison break had been performed nine days before. Two men had booked a flight to Harborough Golf Club before catching a lift into town. They were later seen in the library studying maps of the area.

Both Kendall and Draper were eventually recaptured, while Russell was jailed for 10 years in 1989 for his part in the plot.