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15 September 2021, 10:06 | Updated: 15 September 2021, 13:03
A fugitive who is alleged to have used a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to escape from prison nearly 30 years ago has given himself up - because a city's COVID lockdown made him homeless.
Darko Desic walked into a police station in Sydney because his work as a handyman had been hit by the Australian city's coronavirus restrictions.
Now 64, he surrendered at Dee Why Police Station on Sunday and was denied bail when he appeared in court on Tuesday, charged with escaping from lawful custody in 1992, according to a police statement.
The charge carries a potential seven-year prison sentence.
Sydney's lockdown, which started in June, had cost Desic his cash-in-hand work as a labourer and handyman, police sources told Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"He slept on the beach on Saturday night and said, 'stuff it, I'll go back to prison where there's a roof over my head'," a source told the newspaper.
Desic was aged 35 when he escaped from a prison in Grafton, 390 miles north of Sydney, during the night of 31 July-1 August 1992.
Police allege he used tools, including a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters, to cut through his cell window bars and a perimeter fence.
He had served 13 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence for growing cannabis.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Desic told police he escaped from jail because he thought he would be deported once he had served his sentence, the newspaper reported.
He feared he would be punished for failing to do his compulsory military service in his former country, which has since broken up into several nations.
It is not clear to which country he could be deported, although he is not an Australian citizen.
The newspaper said immigration officials gave up looking for him and in 2008 granted him residency in Australia.
Desic told police he had spent his entire time at large at Sydney's northern beaches in the suburb of Avalon and, according to the newspaper, had never come to the attention of police in that time.
He maintained a low profile but was once mentioned on Australia's Most Wanted, a true crime TV programme, after someone reported seeing him at Nowra, 120 miles south of Sydney.
(c) Sky News 2021: Man hands himself in nearly 30 years after escaping prison - because COVID made him homeless