"Following the escape of a prisoner on remand from the Aveiro EP last Sunday, the SNCGP [Sindicato Nacional do Corpo da Guarda Prisional] comes, once again, to alert to [the] insufficiency of staff in the Prison Guard Corps, a reality that cannot continue to be concealed. There is currently a total of 820 guards missing to guarantee the security and proper functioning of Portuguese prisons", the SNCGP said.

In a statement sent to Lusa news agency, the union adds that despite the staffing map of the General Directorate of Reinsertion and Prison Services (DGRSP) "providing for 4.977 posts for the Prison Guard Corps, the fact is that currently only 4.177 posts are filled, and of these, not all are assigned to functions directly linked to prisoners".

"This reality significantly reduces the ratio between guards and inmates. That is, our Prison Establishments are operating with 820 guards less, a fact that conditions and seriously hinders the fulfilment of the mission of prison guards, in addition to accentuating the risk inherent to the profession," warns the National Union of Prison Guards Corps, chaired by Carlos Sousa.

In a reply sent to Lusa, the DGRSP says that at 3:15pm on Sunday, 2 May, "a prisoner escaped from the Prison Facility of Aveiro," adding that he is 23 years old and is awaiting trial for crimes of theft and coercion.

"All the communications required by law have been made and steps are being taken to recapture him. Internally, an enquiry process is being carried out by the Central Audit and Inspection Service, coordinated by a public prosecutor, to ascertain the circumstances in which the occurrence took place," the DGRSP said.

The escaped prisoner is the man who, in December last year, kidnapped a taxi driver in Fundão, district of Castelo Branco, and, under threat of a shotgun and a knife, forced the driver to drive to Braga.

The taxi was eventually intercepted in the early hours of 24 December by GNR soldiers in the Aveiro area, when it was travelling on Highway 25 (A25).

On board the vehicle followed another suspect, the wife of the now fugitive, both in custody, and a girl of 2 years, daughter of the detainee and the prisoner who remains at large.