His first two prison escapes in Greece were spectacular and successful, aboard helicopters chartered by accomplices. But when Albanian inmate Alket Rizaj tried to break out of another lockup — this time by taking hostages — his gamble just didn't pay off.
After a 24-hour standoff Rizaj, a convicted contract killer, surrendered to police at Malandrino prison in central Greece on Sunday, and his captives were freed or escaped unharmed, Justice Ministry officials said on condition of anonymity in keeping with regulations.
The drama began around 9 p.m. on Saturday, when Rizaj and two fellow Albanian prisoners claimed to be heavily armed and demanded a getaway car from the prison, the officials said. But in the end they only turned out to have two handmade knives.
"This time I did not make it," the officials quoting Rizaj as telling police when he gave up.
Rizaj is famous for having escaped twice from the maximum-security Korydallos prison with his fellow inmate Vassilis Paleokostas in Athens, in 2006 and 2009.
Both times helicopters chartered by accomplices hovered over the prison's courtyard while the escapees climbed up to freedom on rope ladders. Rizaj was eventually recaptured, but Paleokostas remains at large.
Rizaj's latest escape attempt prompted the Public Order ministry to dispatch dozens of riot police to Malandrino prison. A prosecutor and two of Rizaj's lawyers also turned up to implore the three inmates to release the six guards they had taken hostage.
During those talks, police used a crane to free six other prison employees from a higher floor in the lockup, the officials said.
On Sunday morning, police gave up on the talks and fired smoke bombs and stun grenades into the area of the prison where the three Albanians were holding their captives, and one of the hostages escaped, the officials said.
After more negotiations, Rizaj and his accomplices surrendered and freed their five remaining prison workers.
On Sunday night, Greece's Ministry of Justice released a statement congratulating everyone who had taken part in a "bloodless operation" to free hostages at the prison. The ministry gave no details about Rizaj's attempted escape.