Houdini would have been no match for Deduwa Siripala, who escaped from jail three times while in custody. His daring and skill as an escapologist made him something of a folk hero in Sri Lanka – he was so often absent from his cell that he had to be sentenced to death in absentia for the murder of a man in March 1974.

When he was finally caught prison officials were so determined that he wouldn’t escape again that they gave him a sedative on the night before his execution, Tuesday, August 5th, 1975, in Colombo Prison. Siripala immediately collapsed into unconsciousness from which he never recovered.

He was carried to the gallows on a stretcher and laid across the trap-door. The noose was placed around his neck and as the trap-door opened his body dropped a mere two feet two inches, leading to death by strangulation.

His wife had visited him every month in prison, but she was so poor that she had to sell her sugar ration in order to find money for the bus fare.