Determined not to be extradited to St Lucia to answer murder and gun charges, 27-year-old Orville Purnell of Belgium Road, Buff Bay in Portland, made an offer of $3 million to police personnel and inmates at Kingston Central Police Station to assist in his escape from custody.
But that came after he forked out $50,000 to inmates who were able to convince their cronies to throw cutting implements inside the yard of the police lock-up so that he could cut his way out of the jail.
A special investigation by the Jamaica Observer has revealed that Purnell boasted, while he was in the lock-up, that he would not be extradited before he successfully escaped last Wednesday, December 1.
“First there were reports that he offered $50,000 to any inmate who could get the tools he needed to cut his way out of the cell. The money was paid and the police had information that he was planning to escape from the less-than-secure cell six on the short side of the lock-up.
“At that point he was moved to cell nine on the more secure long side of the lock-up,” said an Observer source.
“Days later it was found that he had started cutting the ventilation grill, which is how several prisoners have escaped from police lock-ups in the past,” added the source.
Purnell was then moved to cell one, also on the long side of the lock-up, where it was assumed that it would be more difficult for him to cut the grill undetected.
“It was then suggested to the powers that be that this man should be transferred to the maximum security section of the lock-up, where there are three cells. One of those cells is housing a notorious gangster, another houses a suspected multiple murderer, but one [cell] is free.
“When that recommendation was rejected it was then suggested that he be moved to the Horizon Remand Centre, as it was clear that Purnell was determined to escape. I don't know why all those suggestions were rejected,” added the source.
An inmate, who serves as a jailer, later reported that the key for the cell block where Purnell was being held had gone missing.
“The police knew that and no attempt was made to change the lock, and no investigation was launched to find the missing key. But there are many people who had access to that bunch of keys, including a recently convicted inmate who served as a jailer and was given a run of the place, even setting duties for police,” charged the source.
According to the source, days later Purnell was caught on camera boasting that he had “the golden key to freedom”.
“It was obvious that this man now had his escape plan, but still nothing was done. The camera shows that the day before his escape he gave away all his personal belongings, including clothes, shoes, toiletries, and snacks to fellow inmates,” alleged the source.
“The man just pull him cell and left the custody of the police with no one knowing who collected the $3 million that he had offered, or if he paid more than that,” the source said, disappointment obvious in his voice.
The police Inspectorate and Professional Standards Oversight Bureau is investigating the escape, while a number of police personnel have been transferred awaiting the outcome of the probe, which includes examination of CCTV footage.
Purnell was arrested in Buff Bay on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 by investigators from the police Fugitive Apprehension Team. He was held on a warrant for murder, illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, and escaping custody in St Lucia in August 2020.
According to investigators, Purnell was in custody in St Lucia for the offences; however, he escaped in October 2020 and subsequently fled to Jamaica, where it is believed he had been hiding until his capture.
Purnell is of dark complexion, medium build, and approximately 180 centimetres (5 feet 11 inches) tall. He has several tattoos on both arms. At the time of his most recent escape he sported dreadlocks; however, investigators believe he may cut his locks.