SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A relative of two of the bank robbers who famously escaped from Alcatraz over five decades ago spoke out Thursday night about a letter that recently surfaced.
The official story has always been that the inmates didn’t make it after they jumped into San Francisco Bay, but the letter that was sent to San Francisco police five years ago purports that they did.
It is one of the most legendary prison breaks in American history. For the last 55 years, theories about the fate of three men who broke out of their jail cells on Alcatraz have multiplied as new evidence surfaces.
A letter exclusively obtained by KPIX 5 this week claims that all three escapees — brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris — survived the 1962 escape and lived well into old age.
The letter has never been made public.
John Anglin’s nephew David Widner, who lives outside Atlanta, weighed in on the appearance of the letter Thursday.
“When I first found out about it, I was pretty excited about it,” said Widner. “I was thinking, ‘Wow it’s finally happening.'”
The letter was sent to the San Francisco Police Department’s Richmond station in 2013 and postmarked in Southern California.
“My name is John Anglin. I escape from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris,” the letter read. “I am 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes, we all made it that night, but barely!”
Widner said that family has always believed the men made it to shore after their daring escape.
“We believe that they did make it off the island,” said Widner. “My grandmother did receive items in the mail, and of course the roses and the Christmas cards that come to her.”
He said John and Clarence’s signatures were on those items sent years after the escape.
When asked what his first impressions of the letter purportedly written by his uncle were, Widner said,
“If he was reaching out and was sick and had cancer and was dying, we feel like the FBI or the US Marshals should have at least reached out to the family and let us know that they have received this letter. Maybe we could have helped.”
The writer of the letter makes an offer: “If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke”
The FBI could not determine the authenticity of the letter and the US Marshals considers this lead closed.
New evidence presented in a 2015 History Channel special used a photo allegedly showing escaped brothers John and Clarence Anglin in Brazil 13 years after the great escape. A forensic expert found it highly likely the two men were the Anglin brothers.
The men remain on the U.S. Marshals’ most wanted list along with photos of what they might look like today.
“I think that Alcatraz was probably a huge learning lesson for them,” said Widmer. “And I don’t believe that had they made it out of there that they would have risked committing any more crimes to get caught, to go back to Alcatraz.”