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Armed robber and escapee John Killick claims the suicide of his mum led to his life of crime
Infamous Australian prison escapee John Killick who was flown out of a Sydney jail in a helicopter hijacked by his Russian lover has revealed it wasn’t the first time she tried to bust him free.
Killick entered the history books in 1999 when his gun-toting lover Lucy Dudko famously landed a helicopter in Silverwater jail.
But long before the dramatic chopper escape, Dudko had considered another bold plan to set her bank robber lover free.
Killick had been appearing at a court in Queanbeyan, in southeast New South Wales, when Dudko hatched a plan to break him out of custody.
‘She had a gun on her … she said “I can bust you out in court”,’ Killick told Obeda.
The hardened criminal told Dudko to abort the ill conceived jailbreak, but would later agree on the chopper escape.
‘It showed you how gutsy she was and the lengths she was prepared to go,’ Killick said.
The two had embarked on an affair before eventually settling in Canberra when Queensland police came knocking for the notorious robber.
Killick had violated parole there some 17 years earlier and authorities wanted him back in jail to serve the time.
The pair took off, leaving all of their possessions behind.
‘I went back to robbing banks,’ Killick said.
Pinched after his second bank robbery, Killick was jailed at Silverwater.
Terrified that Russian gangsters were out to get her, Killick hatched a plan to escape via helicopter.
As if gifted by God, a conman helicopter pilot just happened to be transferred into his cell.
‘Without him, without knowing what a transponder was, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,’ Killick said of the daring escape.
Under the guise of participating in a guided chopper tour of the Olympic site, which would be held in Sydney the following year, Dudko hijacked the helicopter mid air.
Armed with a two-shot Derringer pistol, Dudko yanked out the emergency transponder and directed the pilot to Silverwater.
‘He thought she was a Russian hitwoman,’ Killick said.
A gambling addiction drove John Killick to rob banks. He says he regrets his life of crime and now understands the terror he inflicted on his victims. He vows he has gone straight for good
Lucy Dudko after her arrest over the infamous Silverwater chopper jailbreak
Worried the pilot wasn’t taking her seriously, she then produced a submachine gun.
Prison guards fired three shots into the helicopter as it whisked Killick away to freedom.
‘When we got out she’d forgotten the keys to the car. So I had to commandeer a car,’ Killick said.
The couple spent seven weeks on the run until someone tipped them in.
Dudko did seven years while Killick served a little over 15.
‘If they had their way I’d still be in jail,’ he said.
While Killick’s prison break has already been the subject of television specials and books, including one by Killick, the elderly crook has now pinpointed the exact moment he decided to walk the rotten path he did.
Raised in Balmain, a stone’s throw from the heart of Sydney, Killick told Obeda he had lived a trouble free life as a teenager despite living under the roof of his drunken and violent adoptive father.
‘He terrorised us (when) he was drunk in those days. It was pretty traumatic. On Friday nights we’d be in bed praying he wouldn’t get home and get arrested or something,’ Killick said.
When the then 17-year old’s mother died from an overdose, Killick blamed his father.
‘I said “I’m leaving” the very morning that she died and he couldn’t believe it,’ Killick recalled.
‘I packed my bags, I had nothing, and I walked out and left and went into a boarding house.’
On Killick’s very first night away from home he was preyed upon by a wrestler, who was also staying in the home.
‘I didn’t know anything about it. I was a pretty innocent kid and I was really upset about that because at that time I was grieving,’ he said.
‘So I sorta got a bit bitter. That day that mum died it was me against the world really and I hardened up. The young guy that used to read all the time and never got into any trouble (was gone). Totally different change.’
Over the coming decades, Killick would become known as one of Australia’s most dangerous armed robbers.
The helicopter Killick escaped from jail in is highlighted
By the time he gave up the game, Killick had spent more than 30 years in the toughest prisons across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia over a period between 1960 and 2015.
Killick recalled the atrocious conditions he endured upon being placed in an adult jail – New South Wales’ notorious Long Bay – at the tender age of 17.
‘I learnt all the ropes there. It was very hard in those days. Tough crims, tough conditions,’ he said.
Stuffed three into a cell, Killick said inmates had no radio, television, books or running water and had to use a bucket for a toilet.
The traumatic experience set Killick-up for his long life of crime.
‘I changed my code of ethics … and as you know the code of ethics in jail is almost totally opposite to the ones we have outside,’ he told Obeda, who himself was a violent prison gang leader until he was deported back to New Zealand.
From then on, Killick adopted a ‘them and us’ mentality where good thieves were respected.
‘So naturally everybody wanted to be bank robbers. Bank robbers were very rare. The top echelon of criminals in those days were the safe breakers, who were pretty good – they had a skill – and bank robber,’ Killick said.
John Killick is most notorious from escaping by helicopter from the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre (pictured) at Silverwater in Sydney’s west. His lover hijacked the chopper
John Killick now lives a quiet life, trying to deter young people from crime
Killick said he was actually looking forward to going to jail the first time on the belief it would be better than the boarding house he was residing in.
‘I know it’s ridiculous, but in the back of the van (my mate) was saying “Look John we’ll be okay”. I got a bit of a culture shock,’ Killick said.
Taken under the wing of a seasoned inmate, Killick quickly learnt that violence was a powerful survival tool on the inside.
‘The screws would walk away in those days and let you have it out. These days they can’t do it. You’re likely to get 10-outed or stabbed. It’s a totally different ball game now,’ Killick said.
After a failed heist and an 18-month sentence in Bathurst, Killick decided to make his first break for freedom from the back of a police car.
He was quickly rounded up after trying to hide in a chicken pen.
Killick said police later stripped him off and tossed him in a pitch black ‘dungeon’ for the next two days.
Upon release from Goulburn jail – now considered one of Australia’s toughest jails – in March 1962, Killick went straight back to his stick-up gig and quickly copped another three years in the can.
Desperate to catch up with his girlfriend who had returned to the United States, Killick began hitting banks hard to pay his way.
His crime spree made it down to Melbourne, where he was shot at during one brazen bank heist during his rise to Australia’s most wanted crook.
Police examine the helicopter that was used in a brazen jail escape by Killick at Silverwater maximum security jail in 1999
John Killick was in Pentridge Prison when Ronald Ryan (pictured) was hanged for murder in 1967
When Victorian detectives eventually caught-up with Killick he was still carrying a gun he had stolen from the Commonwealth Bank manager in Sydney.
‘Fancy keeping a gun with Commonwealth Bank written on it. I might have been able to have beat those charges without that. Just stupid,’ Killick said.
In Melbourne’s Pentridge prison, which has since been retired, Killick spent time with Ronald Ryan – the last Australian to be executed.
Killick described his time there as ‘horrific’, recalling the time he was literally locked inside a ‘dog box’.
Again he tried to escape after being handed down a seven-year sentence.
That effort saw him brutally beaten by prison guards within the jail’s infamous H-division, where year’s later Mark ‘Chopper’ Read would earn his stripes.
Killick spent hard time in Pentridge breaking rocks.
‘It was illegal what they were doing. And they were bashing people every day,’ he said.
During one failed prison break there, Killick brutally bashed a guard with a metal lever.
‘I reckon I aged 10 years that night. I went totally grey while I was down in Victoria,’ Killick said.
Upon release in the mid 1970s, Killick got married, had a child and for a few years lived a law abiding life.
By 1978 he was back contemplating an armed bank robbery in Adelaide.
Although he never went through with the job, police would pin the bungled robbery on him anyway.
John Killick embarked on a crime rampage after being jailed in South Australia for a crime he never committed
Former librarian Lucy Dudko on release from Dillwynia women’s prison near Windsor in Sydney in 2006
Killick did another three-and-a-half years in a South Australian jail before the High Court of Australia overturned his conviction.
It was then Killick and his young female accomplice Jackie Hawes went on an armed robbery ‘rampage’ across Australia.
By 1984 he was again back behind bars, albeit briefly.
Years before his infamous Silverwater escape, Killick made a daring escape from jail with the help of Dawes.
‘She came back a few months later and busted me out. I went to the hospital and she slipped me a replica pistol ,’ Killick said.
The pair spent a year on the run before police caught up with them.
Killick did another six year stint in Adelaide before being extradited to Queensland.
Upon return to Sydney, Killick hooked up with Dudko – the married mum who would enter their names into the realms of infamy.
Released from jail in 2014, Killick now keeps himself busy conducting university lectures when not writing books.
After a lifetime behind bars, Killick says he now accepts the misery he caused to the bank staff he terrorised.
‘It’s not you against the bank. The bank doesn’t really exist to that extent. It hasn’t got any feelings. You’re dealing with the people inside and some of those people are going to get traumatised,’ he said.
‘So I accept that and that’s why I accept that we do get big sentences … but they will never justify to me why I get four times longer than a pedophile.’