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Chinese police said in a statement that they had tried to recapture Song Jiang several times but were never successful, NBC News reports. Earlier that month, they had obtained new tips on his location, which pointed them in the direction of the mountains behind his hometown in southern China.
Searching for the 63-year-old fugitive on foot proved useless because of how the terrain was complex and dense with vegetation. Police then used drones to survey the area and look for shelter the man might be using. The drone soon spotted “a blue color steel tile appeared on the steep cliff,” and detected “traces of activity and domestic garbage,” per Gizmodo.
Police took over an hour reaching the bottom of the cliff, and when search teams moved in on the hideout, they found “an unkempt old man” in front of the cave. They identified him as Song; he had escaped from prison in 2002.
The cave where Song lived measured less than 21 square feet in size and was too small for an average person to stand in, according to police. Because he had been living in seclusion for a while, he had difficulty communicating with the officers. Song did manage to tell authorities that after he escaped jail, he ran away to his hometown. He found the cave in the nearby mountains and ended up living there for approximately 17 years.
Song hadn’t bathed or done laundry in “a long time,” and his lifestyle had “devastated” his body. He cut his own hair, used improvised bedding, drank water from a mountain valley, and gathered dry tree branches for cooking. Song is being sent back to prison.