[1958:] Twelve hours after Johnny Ramensky had done his fifth and most baffling "vanishing act" in Peterhead jail yesterday it was not known whether he was INSIDE or OUTSIDE the prison. This was admitted late last night by a Scottish Home Department spokesman. Here is the sequence of events leading up to the cracksman's third escape in ten months.
Because of rain, 45 prisoners, including Ramensky, were being exercised in one of Peterhead's large prison halls. At 1.40, the exercise ended and the squad began a 50 to 70-yard march, in organised lines to the tailor's shop. At 1.43, they arrived at the shop WITHOUT RAMENSKY.
The alarm was raised. Every corner of the prison was searched. But there was no trace of the "King of Peterhead". No rope or ladder with which he could have scaled the jail's 18-foot wall was found. One theory was that Ramensky had a key to the back door of the tailor's shop, which is only ten feet from the wall. For it is believed that he had a key for the tailor's shop door on his October break-out. Out went the word to police all over the country: "Ramensky's free again."
Two hunts went on - in swirling snow and at temperatures below freezing point - for the 53-year-old convict who, despite ill-health, had made another freedom bid. Throughout the whole of the North of Scotland road blocks and police checks sprang up. Tracker dogs went out. A strong cordon was thrown round the immediate prison area. For on his last bid in October, Ramensky was found, after 40 hours of freedom only 200 yards from the prison. It was ill-health that beat him then. He collapsed after a child spotted him in a barn.
[...]. Last night people living in the Peterhead area spoke of him without fear. For he is known as "Gentle John" and those beside the prison take bets on how long he will stay free. His escape in February this year lasted 24 hours, before he was caught in Peterhead's main street wearing a warder's cap and a long black coat.
One question was being asked: Why does he keep on doing it, at his age and in his state of health? A police officer who knows him well said last night: "Johnny never expects to get far when he breaks out now ... he's just got to do it to prove that he still can."
Here is a description of the clothes worn by the wartime Commando who cracked safes behind enemy lines: Brown moleskin trousers, brown battledress tunic, brown jersey, blue and white striped shirt, black leather shoes ... and possibly wearing a cap. (Daily Record, Dec 18)
The six-day hunt for gentle Johnny Ramensky was called-off last night. And baffled police admitted: "There are still no clues." [...] The authorities believe that 53-year-old Ramensky, if still alive, is bound to make a mistake sometime, or to leave a clue somewhere. It is understood that police opinion is split over the reason for the absence of a "trail." Some feel he is dead in the sea, but others are convinced he is in the Peterhead area, possibly quite near the prison, and is being fed and sheltered. (Daily Record, Dec 23)