true crime

Danny Shannon wanted to get high so he decided to escape from Sydney's Silverwater prison.

Danny Shannon vividly remembers the time he escaped from Sydney's Silverwater Jail

He will also never forget the reason why he did it.

It was February 2001, and Shannon had been in prison for 12 months or so at this point. During this time, he had noticed a flaw in part of the jail's security.  

It was his partner's birthday, February 6, and Shannon decided he wanted to visit her but also regain access to the large sum of money she was holding for him in the meantime. He called her and asked would she mind if he came home today. 

"She probably just rolled her eyes, and said yeah sure," Shannon recounts to Mamamia. "I had money stashed outside I was itching to get my hands on. So I managed to scale a four-metre high barbed-wire fence."

Watch: the impact of Nitrous Oxide And 'Laughing Gas' in Australia. Post continues below.

Video via 7News.

Looking back on it now, Shannon can't believe he managed the feat, describing the fact he wasn't seriously injured or killed while scaling the barbed-wire fence as a "miracle".

"I cut my legs to pieces on the razor wire and broke my arm as I hit the ground. Then I ran down towards Parramatta River, which is bull shark-infested, and I swam across, before then climbing through the mangroves."


Shannon eventually arrived at his then-partner's house and grabbed his stash of money before they both made their way to Western Australia. He spent six days on the run before police caught him in Perth. 

The motive behind the whole escape? 

Shannon was in the throes of addiction - and he wanted to find some drugs.


Shannon has memories of the first time he tried drugs.

His family had moved from Sydney to Bundaberg in Queensland, Shannon describing the move as a "last-ditch attempt" from his parents to keep their family and relationship intact.

Shannon was 14 at the time, and met some new friends who introduced him to alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs such as nitrous oxide. 

"I remember passing out and waking and seeing smashed glass around, people laying around and I remember thinking, 'Well, that was a lot of fun'."

By the age of 17, Shannon was using heroin and ice, and did so every day for over 15 years.

Danny with his family during the midst of his addiction. Image: Supplied.


"It's hard to explain why I started it. I had a pretty good childhood. My mum was beautiful and taught me all the good stuff. I don't ever blame my upbringing for picking up drugs. More it was that as soon as I picked up and tried it, I could never stop."

In a bid to get enough money to pay for his drug addiction, Shannon turned to crime. This started a vicious cycle of jails, institutions, homelessness, and shame. From the age of 16, Shannon ended up in a boy's home and spent much of his later teen years in juvenile detention. By his 18th birthday, he was in prison.

Shannon spent the next 10 years on and off behind bars.

"I had this obsession and compulsion to get and use more drugs. There were no limits. Nothing could stop me, like I scaled a 24-foot barbed wire fence and jumped over it just to get high basically," says Shannon.

"Getting and using drugs is all that mattered, I still stole, I robbed, I hurt family members and hurt those people around me. At the time I had also become a father to my son. I was hardly there for him at that time. That's still really hard to deal with."


In 2009, Danny checked into the Glebe House rehab facility in Sydney's inner city suburbs. By this time he'd been in and out of other rehabs and overdosed 15 times. He was known on a first-name basis with all the public detox centres around Sydney.

"It's still hard to pinpoint exactly what this time was different. I started writing down things, and doing the things the rehab people suggested. I made a different decision for the first time in my life. I decided I couldn't do this anymore. The shame and hurt I had caused my family, it was eating away at me. 

"Basically a miracle happened, and touch wood I've never come close to picking up another substance since Christmas Day 2009. I've been sober ever since."

Shannon started working consistently, doing labouring jobs, and studied community services. Three years later, he was back at Glebe House – this time as a support worker.

Inspiration hit while at work one day, and Shannon decided to record a video message for his future self. It was about his dreams and goals, and how excited he was for the future. It was an extremely therapeutic experience, he says. 

Danny Shannon today. Image: Supplied.


And it later inspired him to create an app called Encapsulator.

Users can use the on-screen video prompts to delve deep into their thoughts and feelings, to capture progress made, setbacks they have encountered, goals they have set, any emotional baggage that's weighing them down, and ultimately celebrate themselves and how far they've come.

Shannon says many of the people he has met through the rehab facility and his work have used the app now, and have found it to be a cathartic tool.

"I want Encapsulator to be a safe space for people and to help, because feelings of shame and judgement can be so corrosive. I should mention that I've lost so many people I know to overdose, addiction and suicide. And working in the field now, I want to make a difference. To have a purpose like this, it's very fulfilling."


Fatherhood has certainly changed Shannon's life for the better as well.

"My son is 22 now, and institutions were the first half of his life, having to visit me in jail all the time. The last 10 years I have worked really hard on building a relationship with him," he says. "My daughter was born when I was in recovery, and she's got the best of me always, and that's special. I just love them both so much. I love being a dad."

Today, life is great for Shannon.

His work keeps him accountable and motivated.

He's in a good place with his loved ones.

He's travelled widely across parts of the world and also throughout Australia. 

And he's managed to help other people struggling with addiction, a victory he holds close to his heart.

"I've got the chance to build this life beyond my wildest dreams. I am hyper-vigilant around making sure I do a whole bunch of things every single day to keep me in line. There's a lot of gratitude, and I just want to help people express themselves without fear of judgement. That's what saved me."

For more from Danny Shannon, you can visit his website here, socials here, and his app Encapsulator here.

If this post brought up any issues for you, you can contact Drug Aware, Australia's 24hr alcohol and drug support line. You can reach them on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024.

Image: Supplied.

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