Top 10 Biggest Manhunts In History


Some criminals just don’t want to stay put. There have been some amazing prison escapes, carefully planned with extraordinary effort. Likewise, law enforcement agencies put just as much effort into catching these clever criminals. We’ve prepared a list of the top 10 biggest manhunts in history. The resourcefulness of some of these criminals might actually have you rooting for them before you’re done reading!


10. Jack Sheppard

Jack Sheppard Prison Escape

Englishman Jack Sheppard was a thief that was arrested five times, and he escaped 4 times! This was back in 1724, so law enforcement obviously didn’t have modern resources, but they still managed to track him down each time, with the help of average citizens reporting sightings of him. 

9. John Dillinger

John Dillinger Top 10 Biggest Manhunts In History

John Dillinger was an American that was imprisoned in 1933 in Ohio, for bank robbery. He escaped by having his gang dress as officers and infiltrate the prison he was being held in. He was on the run for several months with his gang, but they were caught when the hotel they were staying in caught on fire. He was then sent to Lake County jail in Indiana, where he again escaped. This time, he escaped by using a fake gun he had fashioned himself. The second manhunt was more intense, and the FBI caught him when he drove a stolen vehicle across state lines. 

8. Pascal Payet

Pascal Payet

French criminal Pascal Payet was originally arrested for a murder that occurred during a failed robbery attempt. He was sentenced to 30 years in France’s Luynes Prison. He had a daring escape plan- during exercise time on the rooftop, an accomplice picked him up in a stolen helicopter! Law enforcement searched for him for two years before they caught him, this time as he was trying to help fellow prisoners escape from Luynes. He was put in Grasse prison in France but again escaped by helicopter in 2007. There has been an extensive manhunt by multiple agencies spanning many years, but he has never been found. 

7. D.B. Cooper

DB Cooper Manhunt

During the thanksgiving week of 1971, an unknown man known by the name D.B. Cooper entered an airplane and hijacked it. He forced the airplane to land and demanded parachutes and a huge sum of cash, which the government handed to him. The airplane took off with few hostages onboard. While the airplane was over a forest D.B. Cooper jumped from the airplane using a parachute and landed in a forest. While all this was happening, the U.S. air force and the U.S. army was following the airplane. The army then immediately surrounded the forest from all sides and tried to track down D.B. Cooper but with no success. A massive manhunt was initiated to find D.B. Cooper but again with no success. Till today, D.B. Cooper was not found and this remains one of the few unsolved mysteries. 

6. David Sweat and Richard Matt

David Sweat and Richard Matt Top 10 Greatest Prison Escapes Of All Time

One of the most recent escapes, these two criminals broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. They were found missing during a 5:30 AM bed check on June 6, 2015. They were both serving time for murder. Three weeks later, Matt was found in Malone, New York, where he was shot and killed. The manhunt found Sweat 2 days after that and took him into custody. The investigation and manhunt was said to cost over $23 million! 

5. Choi Gap-Bak

Choi Gap-Bak Biggest Manhunts In History

Arrested in 2012 in South Korea, Choi Gap-Bok escaped in a very unusual manner. He asked guards to bring him his “special body cream” and waited for them to fall asleep before he coated his upper body with it. He then squeezed through the 6”x18” food slot. A nationwide manhunt ensued, and he was recaptured 6 days later and put in a cell with a smaller food slot. 

4. Maze Prison, Ireland

Maze Prison Top 10 Biggest Manhunts In History

One of the bloodiest prison escapes ever was the Maze Prison breakout in 1983 in Ireland. 38 inmates took control of the prison by force and then escaped. They wounded several guards and stole their uniforms. They couldn’t make it past the main gate, so they climbed the fence and made a run for it. Of the 38 men that escaped, 19 were recaptured during the ensuing manhunt. 20 guards were injured. The manhunt lasted another decade. Several more escaped prisoners were caught, but 2 remain at large. 

3. John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris

John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris Manhunt

These three men escaped the famous Alcatraz Prison, on an island in the San Francisco Bay. They made realistic looking dummies for their beds and climbed through holes they had drilled in the back of their cells. They had hidden a makeshift raft outside. The FBI invested many man hours in the manhunt, but none of the three were ever seen again. “What happened next remains a mystery. Did they make it across the Bay, as planned? Or did the wind and waves get the better of them?” wrote the FBI in their report. 

2. Texas Seven

Texas Seven Massive Manhunt

The John B. Connally Unit in Texas is a maximum security prison, but still 7 determined inmates managed to escape. After subduing several guards, they stole their clothes credit cards, and IDs, and took weapons from the guard tower. They also took a pickup truck, with which they began a crime spree. Police officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed while tracking them, in one of the biggest manhunts of all time. After they appeared on America’s Most Wanted, the police received a tip about them being in a Colorado RV park. The FBI Denver Swat team investigated, and four were captured and one committed suicide. The last 2 were caught at a hotel in Colorado Springs. George Rivas, the leader of the group, was executed for the murder of Officer Hawkins. 

1. Joaquin Guzman


The former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel escaped a Mexican prison in 2001. He then spent over a decade running from the massive manhunt that followed. The search for “El Chapo” Guzman is definitely first on the list of top 10 biggest manhunts in history. Mexico offered about $2.3 million for his capture, and the United States offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest. He largely avoided detection, being protected by his cartel. But by 2013, enough information had been amassed that the Mexican Navy was able to apprehend him at a beach resort in Sinaloa. The capture included about 40 Mexican Navy, and a small group of agents from the DEA, the U.S Marshal Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At that time, he was considered the world’s most wanted man.

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