TWENTY year ago the final Herefordshire Jailbreak took place with hundreds forced to find their way from London back to Hereford.

On Sunday, July 2, 2000, 12 coaches took nearly 550 competitors in 137 teams to London for the breakout.

They quickly became the toast of London town as they rushed around dressed in the costumes of weird and wonderful bugs seeking answers to an obligatory quiz.

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Tourists in Regent Street could not believe their eyes and seized upon jail breakers for souvenir pictures to take back with them all over the world.

A mixed team of men and women from Shobdon and Pembridge proved ultimate winners after completing the quiz and getting back to Hereford.

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The 2000 winners

For Bill Stokes and his brother Anthony, Wendy Bowen and Sarah Whittaker of WWW.BUG.R.OFF.COM it was an "easy peasy" kind of trip.

They got a lift in the back seat of a car from Marble Arch to Oxford. The driver loaned them a mobile phone and Bill called his parents who were cruising round in a car looking for them.

The team was picked up just outside Oxford and arrived back in Hereford with a time of five hours, 17 minutes and 37 seconds.

Mr Stokes said: "It was good fun. I have never had a chance to run and round the centre of London like that before."

£112k and still counting

The jail breakers raised upwards of £112,000 for charity in the 2000 race.

The huge amount raised that year meant the total donated in the event's 11-year history surged above £1 million.

In 2000, more teams than ever raised in excess of £1,000 in sponsorship and a special prize went to Malvern Crepes and Drapes for heading the list with £5,050.

The money went to Macmillan Urology Nurse Appeal in Hereford, the Acorns Children's Hospice in Worcester and the haematology department at Hereford County Hospital.

Spectacular return by Birds and Worm

The most spectacular return to Hereford was made by 3 Birds and a Worm from the Newmarket pub. They hitched a ride in two helicopters.

Licensee Beryl Parry, taking part in Jailbreak for the first time, described it as a "spectacular chain of circumstances".

the day before jailbreak she met a man at a barbecue who owned two helicopters at Staverton and jokingly said he would help them if possible.

Beryl and her three colleagues, Steve McHolland, Lyn Dunlop and Sandra Branson got a free lift out of London on the London Flyer coach to Oxford.

There they were picked up by a restaurant owner from Ross-on-Wye who dropped them off at Birdlip. Using his mobile phone, she called the man with the helicopters, who happened to be driving nearby.

The long and short of it all was that he took them to Staverton, and after all the legal formalities were completed the jail breakers were flown in two helicopters to Jailbreak HQ at Hereford Racecourse.

The team came 29th. Two other team from the Newmarket took part, Beryl's Big Boys and Newmarket Slappers, and between the three raised £5,000 for jailbreak.

Unlucky break for team

The Fugitives Jailbreak team had an unlucky lift out of London.

The BMW driver picked them up in Oxford Circus, drove out of the city and asked where they wanted to go.

When they said Oxford Services would do, he said he didn't want to go there and took them back to Oxford Circus.

They had more luck with their next lift when a customer in a pub near the Circus said if they were still there later in the evening he would help them.

They were, he did, and drove them all the way back to Hereford, stopping at a service station on the way to buy them a meal.

The Fugitives, Michelle Butt, Sue Baines, Tina Boulter and Jackie Caradine, arrived back at based at 10.15pm.

No event in 2001

There were tears and plenty of emotion when jail breakers were told they would not break out the following year.

Organisers Ron Davies and Grenville Smith confirmed the event would not take place in 2001, as they both needed to recharge their batteries.

The event was revived briefly in 2007 and 2008.