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Despite generally being considered inescapable, Azkaban prison had seen at least six occasions in which prisoners had escaped. One of these mass-breakouts was done so with the help of Dementors. However, only one person had ever escaped without any outside help, although it was possible that Rodolphus Lestrange also escaped unaided.

Alastor Moody in the early 1990s considered it near impossible to escape from Azkaban due to its security.[4]


From when Azkaban was first used, by the insistence of Minister for Magic Damocles Rowle, as a wizarding prison, no breakouts have occurred for nearly 300 years due to the Dementors depriving their prisoners of their magical capabilities and sanity.

1982 breakout

The Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jnr tried before the Council of Magical Law

The 1982 Azkaban escape occurred shortly after Barty Crouch Jnr, Bellatrix, Rodolphus, and Rabastan Lestrange were sentenced to life imprisonment for the torture and permanent incapacitation of the Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom. At the trial, Bartemius Crouch Snr, Barty's father, was one of the judges. Barty begged his father to set him free, but Crouch Snr felt betrayed by his son and thought he deserved to be punished and imprisoned. He gave his son a life term in Azkaban.[1]

However, Barty's mother, already dying at the time, persuaded her husband to use Polyjuice Potion to switch her for their son, in case any of the prisoners were watching through their cells. The Dementors, being blind, could not tell the difference. They only recognised a healthy person and a dying person (Barty Snr and his wife) entering the fortress, and a healthy person and a dying person (Barty Snr and his son) leaving. Mrs Crouch, disguised as Barty, died a few days later and was buried outside the fortress still bearing her son's appearance. Crouch Snr never retrieved his wife's body as it would reveal the jailbreak.[1]

This was the first known escape in the history of Azkaban, though it was not known to the public until thirteen years later.[1] Once his escape was exposed and he was recaptured, Barty Crouch Jnr suffered the Dementor's Kiss which Cornelius Fudge deemed a worthy punishment.[5]

1993 breakout

"He's at Hogwarts."
Sirius Black muttering in his sleep[src]

In 1993, Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban after seeing Scabbers in a Daily Prophet article of the paper Cornelius Fudge gave him in late July 1993, recognising him as his traitorous former friend Peter Pettigrew. By 31 July, Black took advantage of his extreme weight loss to slip through his cell door in his Animagus dog form (which was unregistered, thus the Ministry did not take preparations against) while the Dementors were bringing in his food and swam across the North Sea to find Pettigrew. Black was able to maintain his sanity due to his knowledge of his innocence, a non-happy thought that the Dementors could not take. It was only this that allowed him to maintain his powers to transform, and what made the escape possible.[6]

This escape was the only known unaided escape, and officially the first one in Azkaban history (until Barty Crouch Jr's escape was revealed). Black was facing the Dementor's Kiss as punishment should he ever be recaptured, though he ultimately eluded the Ministry,[7] and his name was cleared shortly after his murder at the hands of his cousin, the Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, in the year of 1996.

1996 mass breakout

"We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in the same position we were two and a half years ago when the murderer Sirius Black escaped. Nor do we think the two breakouts are unrelated. An escape of this magnitude suggests outside help, and we must remember that Black, as the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, would be ideally placed to help others follow in his footsteps. We think it likely that these individuals, who include Black's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, have rallied around Black as their leader. We are, however, doing all we can to round up the criminals and beg the magical community to remain alert and cautious. On no account should any of these individuals be approached."
— Cornelius Fudge interview to the Daily Prophet about the Azkaban mass breakout[src]
Daily prophet bellatrix.jpg

In January 1996, a mass breakout from Azkaban set ten long-imprisoned Death Eaters loose. Lord Voldemort had little trouble arranging this, as many of the Dementors were happy to oblige his dark whims. Cornelius Fudge (who was at the time refusing to believe that Voldemort could have returned and leading the Ministry of Magic in a campaign to discredit Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter for trying to prove the claim) expressed to the Daily Prophet the Ministry's fear that Sirius Black was responsible for the incident due to his family tie with one of the Death Eater escapees, Bellatrix Lestrange.[3] However, he was either unaware of or neglecting the fact that Black was actually disowned by his family for going against their pure-blood supremacy and favouring the blood-traitorous Potter family, and both cousins have been sworn enemies ever since.

These ten were considered to be some of the most dangerous and highly guarded convicts due to their crimes being legendary. The escapees were high security prisoners being held on the top most floors of the prison and were sentenced to life within the walls of the fortress. Most of the escapees, as well as a few other Death Eaters, would be returned to prison after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries with the exception of Bellatrix Lestrange, who eluded capture with the continued aid of Lord Voldemort by Dissaparating with him after the Duel with Dumbledore and Potter in the Ministry Atrium, but not before they were seen by the entire Ministry of Magic. With no other choice, Fudge was forced to accept and announce that Voldemort has indeed returned, as well as the Dementors' revolt.

Known escapees

  • Three other Death Eaters

First 1997 mass breakout

"Scrimgeour doesn't want to admit that You-Know-Who is as powerful as he is, nor that Azkaban's seen a mass breakout."
Arthur Weasley shortly after the flight from Little Whinging[src]

Some time before 27 July, 1997, there was another mass breakout of Death Eaters from Azkaban, including all the escapees from the 1996 breakout who were re-imprisoned after the Ministry break-in, as well as others who had been imprisoned since. It was not reported to the public by the Ministry of Magic, due to their misguided attempt to keep the community under a false pretence of peace.[8] Many of the escapees participated in the meeting at Malfoy Manor that summer,[9] in the Battle of the Seven Potters,[10] the Fall of the Ministry of Magic,[11] and eventually the Battle of Hogwarts.[12]

Known escapees

Second 1997 mass breakout

On 1 August, 1997, the Ministry of Magic was taken by the Death Eaters and Pius Thicknesse (under the influence of the Imperius Curse) was made Minister for Magic. The newly reformed Ministry hosted another mass breakout. Those who escaped were falsely cleared and some went on to work at the Ministry of Magic. Travers, who had been recaptured in August, was a known escapee.[13]

2020 breakout

Rodolphus Lestrange

Sometime around 2020, Rodolphus Lestrange, convicted Death Eater who had escaped twice from the mass breakouts, had made his third escape from Azkaban. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes of using the Cruciatus Curse on Alice and Frank Longbottom, so he was not eligible for release. How he achieved the escape is not known (though by this time the prison had already been purged of Dementors, thus his powers had not been drained by their depressive presences). An unknown amount of time after his escape, he reached Delphini to inform her of her heritage and destiny.[14]

Behind the scenes

  • Prior to the repeated mass breakouts, the apparent punishment for escaping Azkaban (a feat that all would consider impossible to begin with) was the Dementor's Kiss, as it was noted that Sirius was to suffer it should he be recaptured. Barty Crouch Jr indeed suffered such a fate, though it was mostly a result of Cornelius Fudge's lack of control over the Dementor he took as security escort.
  • Albus Dumbledore claimed, when Fudge attempted to arrest him, that he could easily break out of Azkaban if he desired, though he considered it a waste of time; that he would much rather resist arrest than being sent there only to escape. How he planned to achieve this is unknown. However, his pet phoenix, Fawkes, could perform a form of apparition and disapparition that is not bounded by the Anti-Apparition Charm and the Anti-Disapparition Jinx.
  • In the video game adaption of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as the player assumes the role of Sirius Black to duel Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy alongside a now computer-controlled Harry, he shouts to Bellatrix that Escaping Azkaban were you worst move yet!, while Tonks can be heard while duelling Death Eaters in the background that You are going back to Azkaban, where you belong!
  • In the second video game adaption of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Molly Weasley mentions Bellatrix Lestrange's last escape, You will regret the day you escaped from Azkaban, as one of the randomly spoken lines in their duel.
  • To date, Sirius Black is the only individual known to escape Azkaban without any outside help.
  • When Cornelius Fudge was being interviewed regarding the first mass breakout, he referred to Sirius Black as the first prisoner ever to have escaped, either forgetting or ignoring that Bartemius Crouch Junior was the first escapee.[3]
  • Cho Chang noted that it was odd that dozens of Dementors were present after Sirius escaped, and none were present after the 1996 mass break out. Harry took this as a sign that the Dementors were likely outside of Ministry control, as they weren't looking for the escapees.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 35 (Veritaserum)
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay)
  4. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 7, Chapter 36 (Impenetrable and Unplottable)
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 (The Servant of Lord Voldemort)
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 21 (Hermione's Secret)
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6 (The Ghoul in Pyjamas)
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 5 (Fallen Warrior)
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 13 (The Muggle-Born Registration Commission)
  12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
  14. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child