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Forrest Tucker - an American career criminal.
The real character in the 2018 film The Old Man & the Gun.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019
2655 viewers.

Forrest Silva "Woody" Tucker was an American career criminal first imprisoned at age 15 who spent the rest of his life in and out of jail. He is best known as an escape artist, having escaped from prison "18 times successfully and 12 times unsuccessfully," according to himself. The 2018 film The Old Man & the Gun, starring Robert Redford as Tucker, was based on his life.

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Prison escapes

A former inmate of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Tucker was able to escape from the authorities after he had been temporarily moved to a hospital in San Francisco for an operation. He was captured a few hours later still in handcuffs and a hospital gown. His most famous escape was in the summer of 1979 from San Quentin State Prison in California, when he and two confederates built a kayak and paddled away in full view of the guards. He was not apprehended for four years, during which he and a gang went on a crime spree. Tucker's crimes of choice were bank robberies and it is estimated he stole over four million dollars during his career. Tucker wrote a number of books about his life including Alcatraz: The True Story and The Can Opener, although it is unclear if they were ever published.

Tucker was profiled by David Grann in The New Yorker in 2003 in a piece titled "The Old Man and the Gun" which describes Tucker's most recent bank robbery. Living in a retirement community in Florida, at the age of 79 and married for the third time, he robbed an estimated four banks by himself in the local community. He was finally caught in 2000 and sentenced to 13 years in jail, making him eligible for release in 2013. David Grann reported him to be imprisoned in Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth (now known as Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Worth).

Tucker died in prison on May 29, 2004 (aged 83).

He First Escaped From Prison In 1936, When He Was Jailed For Stealing A Car At Age 15

1937 The Second Time He Escaped From Prison He Handed His Fellow Inmates Hacksaws Through The Windows

1956 Tucker was plagued by kidney problems when he was incarcerated there. In 1956, he was taken to a local hospital and prepped for surgery. However, Tucker jumped off of the gurney right before he was wheeled into the surgical suite and kept jail employees busy for the next five hours, until he was caught hiding in a nearby field.

Tucker's most daring escape took place in 1979. He and a fellow inmate at San Quentin State Prison in California managed to build a canoe out of random things found in the jail - duct tape, wood, formica, and sheets of plastic. They plastered "Rub A Dub Dub, Marin County Yacht Club" on the side, and paddled their way out of the prison, right in front of the guards. The boat was made to look like one from the nearby yacht club, and Tucker even stitched a hat with the club's name on it. Although his fellow escapees were caught fairly quickly (within months, the story goes), Tucker remained on the lam until 1983.

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