Daring escape bid ends in crash

Fraud suspect Mark Michaels disappeared minutes before he was due to appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court
Fraud suspect Mark Michaels made another bolt for freedom in East London yesterday

Court dodger rearrested after dash for freedom in cop car while on way to court

An alleged conman who escaped from custody in Port Elizabeth previously, made another bolt for freedom in East London yesterday, crashing a stolen police vehicle three times in a matter of seconds. In a further twist, East London police have confirmed they are investigating the detective who left Mark Michaels alone in the back seat of the police car, with the key in the ignition.

Battling to drive with his leg irons still on, Michaels first crashed into an oncoming BMW, then collided with a pedestrian in Devereaux Avenue, before eventually smashing into a pavement in Douglas Road in Vincent.

Michaels, 31, then tried to hide out in a nearby shop.

To explain the shackles around his legs to the shop owners, he concocted a story about being on the run from the people who had abducted him.

Cambridge police station detectives were about to transport Michaels to the East London Magistrate’s Court at about 8am yesterday, where he was due to appear on a fraud charge, when he simply hopped into the driver’s seat and sped off.

“It is alleged that the suspect was left alone in the back seat of a police vehicle outside the Cambridge police station,” police spokesman Captain Mluleki Mbi said.

There were no further details available about the woman pedestrian that Michaels drove into, except that she suffered a broken leg.

The alleged con artist also uses the alias “Kenton Marks”, but it is understood that Mark Michaels is not his real name either.

He escaped from the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on March 3, where he was due to appear for allegedly defrauding a vehicle seller on Gumtree, as well as bilking two beachfront hotels after running up bills totalling R35 000.

But before the magistrate could even get to his case, Michaels disappeared from the dock and brazenly walked out of the court building unnoticed.

He was rearrested in East London on Saturday night, after he allegedly tried to defraud another user on Gumtree.

Mbi said an internal investigation was immediately launched into Michaels’ latest escape bid, with the aim to take disciplinary or criminal action, depending on the circumstances.

“He was about to be transported to court this morning when he managed to drive the vehicle while in leg irons,” Mbi said.

Ethan Heuer, 22, who works at Intertrade Security Distributors in Douglas Road, said Michaels was still in leg irons when he ran into their shop.

“I was busy with another client when [Michaels] came in, claiming that he had been abducted but managed to escape,” Heuer said.

“He said his kidnappers had left him in the back seat with the car idling, and that was how he eventually got away.”

They told Michaels to sit down and gave him a glass of water, while Heuer phoned the police.

“There was a lot of commotion down the street and someone, I think a motorist, came in shouting that they were going to kill him [Michaels],” Heuer said.

“The police then phoned back, saying we must keep him there.”

Mbi said Michaels, who was not injured during the incident, was apprehended once more and taken to the magistrate’s court to appear as scheduled. “Charges of escaping from lawful custody, theft of a motor vehicle, and reckless and negligent driving will also be added to his charge sheet,” he said.

Michaels, who claims to be from Cape Town, was remanded in custody until today, when a date will be arranged for a formal bail application.

It is understood that he will then be transported back to Port Elizabeth to face three provisional charges of fraud and escaping from custody.

According to a string of Michaels’ alleged victims, he used the same mode of operation in each instance.

The latest complainant, an East London sales technician, sold Michaels a BMW for R160 000.

Several others claim they were scammed by Michaels who bought vehicles from them via Gumtree.

In each instance, he allegedly led them to believe he had transferred the money via internet banking, which they later discovered had never been done.

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