A case of Escape and Retrieval
Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching rash in most people who touch it.
Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms:
as a trailing vine that is 10–25 cm tall (4 to 10 inches)
as a shrub up to 1.2 m tall (4 feet)
as a climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support.
The plant may have been introduced during the American occupation in the early 1900s until it became an endemic plant used to decorate fences and walls of homes in gated communities. It has been said that snakes are afraid to scale walls when there is a poison ivy vine twirling on the perimeter.
The plant was to be heard again, this time as a signature tag of a seductive villainess in the famous Hollywood Batman movie series. Actress Uma Thurman typified the human cum plant who would try to defeat Batman and Robin in their crusade for justice, earning for her as one the most lethal outlaw that matched the bravado of the caped duo. She was Poison Ivy, a classic character that achieved quite a following among comic fans.
But the most remarkable and true to life adventure of another female denizen who was labelled as Poison Ivy did not come from imagination or literary woodwork. She was one of the most elusive and enigmatic felons the law enforcement agency of Philippine government ever bagged. Jails were no matched to her cunning however. While she can easily be caught and prosecuted, she had also that rare capacity to leave captivity if she really intends to fly from the cookoo’s nest. Her cunning in evading the law nonetheless ended until she was convicted for Theft and brought to the Penitentiary to serve time.
She was known as Poison Ivy, a label that would attach to her persona, not to her liking though but it stuck just the same because of law enforcement jargon in depicting its subjects. She had an amiable and cordial feature, a likeable projection one could instantly trust from a distance. She was genial and friendly, the type any person wanted to have to complete a task. She was an ideal assistant. In no time, she would be employed as aid and helper; and her employer would lose no time extending trust to her. That would be the signal when she would strike.
Her modus operandi is a template for property predators. She would prepare the meals for her employer, sprinkle it with a concoction that would sicken the stomach and when danger is sensed, especially if the employer has a history, say, of a high blood pressure or heart ailment, she would feign alarm and concern. She would even pretend panic and agitation. In the ensuing fright, employer would consent for an emergency hospital check up. The employer is immediately calmed, her arms virtually stabbed with dextrose. That would be the time when Poison Ivy goes back to the house and in her sweet time, ransack the place for precious and valuable items. Thereafter, she would still check her employer and pay partially the hospital for the admission and related expenses. That would be the period when she would bid quietly her employer goodbye. Once the employer is revived and is discharged, she would find out that she has lost every expensive and prized article in her house, including her trustworthy assistant.
She would roam the street, loaf around malls, moneyed and quite lavish enjoying the fruit of her surreptitious endeavour until such time she runs out of resources. Thereupon, she would again hunt for a prospective employer. That would be her routine. She gets employed, poisons her employer, brings her to hospital and drains her employer’s house of valuables. Until the law catches up.
She was charged, prosecuted and sentenced for theft. It was estimated that she has accumulated millions worth of valuables that her penalty signified the extent of her crime; she was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the penitentiary, she was easily accepted because of her pleasant and convivial projection. She was warm and friendly until she was given a light assignment among female inmates in a handicraft shop. She was very careful not to be popular among the group. She would feign conservatism to the point of being seen as autistic. With such behavioural cover, she can scan her environment without being seen as dubious. She began reviewing her surroundings, the corridor, the pathways, the walls, the fences. Checking the terrain is almost instinctive for her.
One day, she grew weary. The sun was unusually shy and most people must be lethargic. That for her is a sign. Slowly, she wrapped the regulation blanket, brought it in the shop and while she affably interacts with her fellow trainees, she innocuously leaves her corner, smiles at her peers and proceeded with a bundle onwards at the backdoor of the shop. Along the corridor, fronting the fence, she made a couple of glances, threw the blanket askew at the barbed wire fence, climbed quickly and in seconds, she was already outside of the camp. She pretended to walk normally, removed her uniform to display a new set of civilian clothing. She dumped her prison clothes and proceeded to walk characteristically like any resident in the area surrounding the camp. She reached the gate and a few paces before the guard station, she waited for some pedestrians. She would try to blend with them projecting that she was also a part of the group. She had that featured smile which can elicit trust and reliability. In a few seconds, she was already in the mainstream of the free community.
A few hours later, the penitentiary was on full alarm. The newly received prisoner, known to them as Poison Ivy may have been lost inside the prison camp. The custodial personnel were in panic, until they discovered a dry blanket splayed on the fence. The marks of a muddy sneaker and signs of hand grip indicated that it was used for the escape. For the first time in the history of the women’s prison, an inmate bolted through the fence.
A few hours thereafter, a manhunt was flashed. For the tracker team, the problem is that she cannot be located in a specific area. She was born in a remote town of Davao del Norte but she merely spent her first three years in the elementary before she was swaddled to stay at Ilo-ilo. When she graduated in the elementary, she joined her aunt in Manila where she finished secondary education. She is basically multi-lingual and can move around with ease. Over at Davao del Norte where she could find her relatives, it was believed that her estranged father is a top communist rebel already. She will never regress back to rejoin rural life. She can survive in urban areas through her charms knowing that the metropolis is too impersonal to detect her wiles.
In other words, Poison Ivy is still out there, prowling and may be somewhere in the neighbourhood waiting for a chance to be conscripted again. Beware of strangers. That wonderful lady smiling in one humble corner may not be that friendly after all. Civilization has introduced a number of changes. Development has many sides. One of them is serial crime. (Note: Just a few days out on furlough, Poison Ivy was re-arrested. Presently, she is restricted in the maximum security area of the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City.)