Three men charged with rape, unlawful entry and robbery have escaped from holding cells at Mzilikazi Police Station.

The three suspects, Pardon Makuni, 19, Mernard Gwatiedza, 22, and Ashley Moses, 21, all of Gweru, escaped from police custody just before 8 PM on Saturday, police said.

The trio was brought to the station from Hwahwa Prison, where they were being held on remand, on 18 November.

They are being linked to reported cases of unlawful entry, robbery and rape that took place in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb.

During a shift change at 7.50 PM on Saturday, police said two police officers from the outgoing shift went to the cells with a third officer from the incoming shift for the official handover. An internal police memo of the incident read:

The three accused persons requested to be fed and were turned down as they had been fed at around 5.30 PM.

One of the accused persons then pounced on one of the officers whom he pushed against the wall, giving him and his two accomplices an escape route.

The other two police officers failed to block the three accused who fled and jumped the fence towards Millennium Bar and crossed over to long-distance bus terminus Renkini in the northwest direction.

The police canine unit responded but the prisoners were gone. The Criminal Investigations Department is leading the investigation.

Meanwhile, the three police constables have been charged under the Police Act for “any wilful act or negligence suffering a person in custody to escape.”

Two sergeants have been charged with “omitting or neglecting to perform any duty, or performing any duty in any improper manner” or failure to supervise.

Police have since launched a manhunt for the suspects.