A suspected double murderer managed to escape from prison after using a spoon to tunnel his way out of a neighbor's cell. His mother has now issued a plea for police not to harm him during their search and capture.
"I do not want police to fire a bullet into his head!" Yekaterina Topalova told Russia's Life News. "He turned himself to police before his arrest. We do not believe he is guilty and we want to prove this to everyone. We want more time for this!"
According to police, Oleg Topalov, 33, managed to use a spoon to penetrate the ceiling and escape through an air vent in the maximum-security prison in Moscow.
"The inmate climbed to the building's roof through a dormer window and then, using a blanket and a rope, reached the territory of the Gilyarovsky psychiatric hospital and disappeared," a police source told the Ria Novosti website.
"As the building was rundown, it was no trouble for Topalov to enlarge the breach of the air shaft through which he got out to the roof. Using a rope made of bedsheets, he got across the building's wall, jumped through a fence, and ran away," a prison spokesperson added.
Topalov is awaiting trial for two murders and arms trafficking. He had been held on remand since October 2011. Police suspect that Topalov was a hitman who worked for Aslan "Gramps Khasan" Usoyan, the Russian equivalent of a mafia boss. Usoyan died in January after a shooting blamed on a turf war.
He shared a cell with seven other inmates but no one warned officials. Police are also investigating whether security guards may have known about the escape or tried to help Topalov get to freedom. Topalov is only the fourth man in 20 years to escape from the maximum-security prison.
Police are now searching for Topalov and have offered a "large reward" for anyone who provides information leading to his capture.