Great Britain: Alfie the Elusive

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The English, who are among the world's most law-abiding citizens, unabashedly admire the man who can defy the law and make it look like an ass. Alfred George Hinds, or Alfie, as he is universally known, is a pallid, peaceable chap with thick glasses, and the oppressed air of a real-life Alec Guinness. Despite his undis tinguished appearance, he has one of the best-known faces in Britain.

What most endears Alfie to Britons is his passionate attachment to liberty. Sen tenced to a twelve-year prison term for a cool bit of safecracking in 1953 (he pleaded innocent), he has escaped three times for a total of 841 days at large.

Mocking Scotland Yard's frantic efforts to capture him, Alfie sent memorandums protesting his innocence to English M.P.s, granted press interviews, even got a tape recording of his plea on TV. Since he was last restored to custody, in 1960, Alfie has fought for his liberty before the high est courts in the land. Last week, after dismissal of his 13th and probably final appeal, all England waited for his next escape. He had already notified Lord Justice Sellers: "I am not going to re main in prison. It would be very hard for me to leave again. But I assure you I am going to." Locked in a Lavatory. Alfie's vivid sense of injustice dates back to childhood, when his father died after ten strokes of the cat-o'-nine-tails for armed robbery. Lodged in a children's home, he made his first break at seven. He escaped a Borstal institution for delinquents in his teens, and during World War II learned the art of camouflage as an army deserter. His first headline break came after his conviction for the safe job (Scotland Yard has yet to trace $90,000 worth of stolen jewelry). After Alfie slipped through locked doors and over a 20-ft. wall at Nottingham Prison, he became known as "Houdini" Hinds, spent eight happy months on the loose in Europe and Ireland, where he had set up shop as a builder-decorator when the Yard caught up with him in 1956.

His next exploit, a lawsuit charging the prison commissioners with illegal arrest, was a convenient cover for the most audacious escape in policemen's memory. He got outside accomplices to smuggle him a padlock in the Law Courts, went to the toilet with two guards. When they removed his handcuffs outside. Alfie bundled them into the lavatory, snapped the padlock onto screw eyes inserted on the door by his pals, and vanished in crowded Fleet Street. Though he was recaptured at the airport five hours later. Hinds slipped out of Chelmsford Prison in less than a year and returned to Ireland. As William Herbert Bishop, used-car dealer (and auto smuggler), he eluded the peelers for almost two years, and might never have been caught if he had not accidentally been stopped in an unregistered car.

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