Authorities searching for two escaped killers who have been on the loose for the better part of a week have admitted they remain in the dark about the pair’s whereabouts.
David Sweat and Richard Matt used power tools to cut through a steel wall, then broke through bricks and crawled through a steam pipe before emerging through a manhole in the street outside the 3,000-inmate Clinton Correctional Facility in far northern New York, about 20 miles from the Canadian border.
The breakout was discovered early on Saturday, meaning the inmates may have had a head start of several hours.
At a news conference outside the maximum-security prison, Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said: “I have no information on where they are or what they’re doing, to be honest with you.”
But authorities are expanding the search after investigators learned the inmates had talked before last weekend’s breakout about going to neighbouring Vermont.
“We have information that suggests they thought New York was going to be hot. Vermont would be cooler, in terms of law enforcement,” said Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, at the news conference along with New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, late last night another search was started closer to the prison.
Mr D’Amico also said that a prison employee – identified in news reports as Joyce Mitchell, a training supervisor at the prison tailor shop – had befriended the killers and “may have had some role in assisting them”.
Her son Tobey Mitchell told NBC that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains on Saturday. He said she would not have helped the inmates escape.
Vermont authorities are patrolling Lake Champlain and areas alongside it, Mr Shumlin said. Mr Cuomo urged the people of Vermont to be on the alert and report anything suspicious, warning: “Trust me, these men are nothing to be trifled with.”
As part of the search, state troopers and correction officers in helmets and body armour retraced their steps around the prison, checking garage doors, sheds, windows and other structures for signs of a break-in or other clues.
More than 450 federal and state law enforcement officers are taking part in the search, including customs agents, federal marshals and park rangers.
The killers’ mugshots have been put on more than 50 digital billboards in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, state police said, and a $100,000 reward has been posted.
Law enforcement officials again asked the public to report anything out of the ordinary.
“We don’t want them out searching the woods,” Sheriff David Favro said. “But if you’re sitting on your porch, get your binoculars out and see if you see something unusual.”