Notorious prisoner and escape artist Ananias Mathe has died in hospital, according to reports.
A senior prison official in KwaZulu-Natal told TMG Digital that Mathe had been suffering complications from a “digestive issue” over the past three months. He died on Tuesday afternoon in the King Edward VIII Hospital, the report said.
Mathe also known as the "Houdini of C-Max" made many attempts and two successful break-outs from some of South Africa’s most secure prisons.
The serial rapist and armed robber from Mozambique achieved notoriety in 2006 by being the first person to have ever escaped from the maximum high-security C-Max Penitentiary in Pretoria.
During his escape, Mathe is believed to have stripped and covered his entire body with petroleum jelly to enable him to climb out of a bullet-proof window in his cell, which measured just 20cm by 60cm.
He was able to break through the wall surrounding the window, something which seems impossible in a cell where prisoners are allowed only a toothbrush, mug and spoon, and are shackled at all times.
The cell from where he escaped was about six square metres in size and contained only a bed, toilet, basin and wooden bench.
Once he had managed to remove the window, it is believed that he broke off two steel bars from his bed, which he wedged on either side of the window to help him slide his shoulders out of the window.
Mathe apparently took another steel pipe from his bed and made a hook from it. He then tied his clothes and bed linen to it, and used it to slide out of the cell down the firewall.
Halfway down the wall, Mathe was able to use some of the grime he had collected on his way down to write prison officials a message, which simply read "f**k you".
He was captured a month later.
Mathe had also managed to escape Johannesburg Central police station's high-risk detention facility in 2005.
Earlier this year, Mathe tried to break out of the Ebongweni C-Max Prison near Kokstad – for the second time.
It is understood that Mathe managed to saw bars in his cell and break a window before being apprehended.
In 2013 he tried to get out by chiselling away the wall and damaging the prison sink, but was thwarted when a guard saw him chipping away. He only got as far as making a 33cm cut in the wall, with a few “test” holes, before wardens caught on to his escape plot.