BEECHWORTH cartoonist Adrian Osborne was approached by a pleasant young man on Monday night, a bloke stuck in the rain without a ride.
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He was polite and softly spoken as he asked Mr Osborne if he knew the number for a taxi.
“He looked like a bloke who was trying to get home,” Mr Osborne said.
So Mr Osborne got out his mobile phone and called a taxi.
The stranger shook his hand, introduced himself as Justin, and with that, he was gone.
Only later would Mr Osborne learn he had just assisted a fugitive in his escape from justice.
Justin Carruth, 24, had broken out of Beechworth jail before he walked about four kilometres into town and came across Mr Osborne near Beechworth’s Town Hall Gardens.
With no idea there had been an escape from the jail, Mr Osborne had no reason to be suspicious of the stranger.
Noel Evans, owner of Beechworth Taxis, arrived to pick up the minimum security escapee, still wearing his prison-issue green clothes.
On the way to Wodonga the pair chatted, Carruth telling Mr Evans he had a partner and a child and that he had been in the area for a couple of months looking for work as a concreter.
Mr Evans was suspicicous — he had heard there had been an escape — but he couldn’t make out what his passenger was wearing in the dark.
“But he didn’t act aggressive. He was pretty normal,” Mr Evans said.
“If I had known who he was I probably would have tried to talk him out of it.”
At about 10pm, Mr Evans dropped his passenger off at Beechworth Road in Wodonga, where he said they were met by a man who paid the fare in cash.
This was the last sighting of Carruth.
After being interviewed by investigators yesterday, Mr Osborne and Mr Evans said they had no hard feelings towards the runaway who conned them with a story about a broken down car.
“He was quite a nice bloke really,” Mr Evans said.
“A lot of the time people who do that sort of thing have got girlfriend problems and things like that.
“They end up doing something silly.”