A murderer and an armed robber who escaped from a low security jail near Rockhampton have been seen in a car.
Almost two days have passed since Tony Dwaine Morgan, 33, and Bradley Thomas Kuhl, 34, slid under a fence at the Capricornia Correctional Centre in central Queensland.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says they were spotted at beachside Emu Park overnight.
“We believe they are valid sightings,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“So we’ve put extra resources to work in that area.”
Police are investigating if they were given help to obtain a car, but Commissioner Stewart declined to say if the pair had contacted their families.
“What I am saying is that we are using every channel of information that we can possibly get to track them down quickly.”
Simone Hitchcock, a Together union delegate at that correctional centre, said budget cuts removing night patrols from Queensland jails made the escapes from the Etna Creek prison farm possible.
“It is my true belief that the removal of these dog squad officers was a contributing factor in the escapes that happened,” she told ABC Radio.
“Having the dog squad officers on site meant that if any prisoners were attempting an escape, they would be tracked right there and then.”
Commissioner Stewart says any decision on night patrols was up to corrective services.
” I can’t comment on whether or not dog patrols would make a difference in that circumstance,” he said.
A man hunt is also underway for drug dealer Howard Lindsay who was reported missing from a work camp at Blackall, in central western Queensland, on Monday morning.
Commissioner Stewart said police had suspicions he was given aid in his escape.
“Just simply walking away from work camp is probably not the smartest thing,” he said.
“I would imagine that a lot of the work we’re doing is looking at if people actually actively supported them getting away from these places.”
Authorities are also searching for sex offender Stewart James Dawson, who disobeyed a home detention order at the Fortitude Valley in inner Brisbane.
There have been no sightings of Dawson.
Together Union secretary Alex Scott says the government’s “tough on crime” approach has created staffing problems in the state’s prisons that will result in more escapes.
“The breakouts that have occurred are a direct result of the overcrowding and understaffing of correctional centres,” he told reporters.
“If the government keeps locking up as many people as they are at the moment, we’ll need additional prisons.”
Kuhl and Morgan were the first prisoners to abscond from a low security jail in almost 18 months, the longest period in the last decade.
Queensland Corrective Services says claims that unsuitable offenders are being placed in low security jails due to capacity in high security centres are incorrect.
Spokesman Ron McDonald says prisoners are moved over if they’ve been compliant, progressed through intervention programs, and their willingness to work.
“Assessments are based on the individual circumstances,” Mr McDonald said.
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General said low security correctional centres are staffed around the clock.
“Prisoners are subject to random and scheduled head counts and musters, as well as a range of other security measures,” the department said in a statement to AAP.
“We do not specify… other measures for security reasons.”