Search on for prisoner who killed officers

More than 150 policemen, backed by helicopters, heat sensors and sniffer dogs, were combing through parts of Trikala, central Greece, late yesterday looking for an escaped prisoner who allegedly shot and killed two officers on Friday. The inmate, 23-year-old Russian Maxim Zhilin, escaped near the town of Katara while being transported between jails with two other prisoners. Zhilin said that he needed to relieve himself and asked that the van be stopped. After he returned to the vehicle with his police escort, Constantinos Vlachopanos, the Russian managed to wrestle the gun off Vlachopanos, officers said, with the help of fellow inmate Ilmi Dada, an Albanian national. Zhilin, a former waiter accused of stabbing a female motorist to death in October while hitchhiking on the island of Corfu, then shot and killed Vlachopanos. A second officer, Dimitris Kostis, who was driving the van, rushed to help his colleague and was also killed. The two inmates then escaped, running into a nearby forest, while the third inmate remained on the bus. Early yesterday, police managed to catch Dada, who had sought refuge from the freezing temperatures in a farm hut some 12 kilometers from where the shootings took place. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said that a large-scale manhunt is being held for the remaining fugitive and that an investigation has been launched into the incident. The deaths of the two policemen appear to be the result of a series of mistakes made as the inmates were being transported. Sources say that basic rules that apply in these cases were not adhered to, exposing the two dead officers, who were not equipped with bulletproof vests. The head of the Panhellenic Confederation of Police Officers (POASY) Dimitris Kyriazidis claimed there should have been four policemen in the van. Police on Friday suspended the head of the prisoner transportation service in Ioannina, Stavros Pantazis, and the officer who was on duty at the time the incident took place, Lambros Tragoudaros. Police consider Zhilin to be very dangerous, and have warned locals to take precautions.

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