Serfs who managed to stay on the run for a year in the Middle Ages won their freedom.
But these days police are nowhere near as forgiving when it comes to hunting fugitives .
The case of revolutionary and suspected cop killer Masaaki Osaka shows you can run but you cannot hide for ever.
Osaka, 67, was nabbed last month after 45 years on the run for allegedly murdering a policeman with a molotov cocktail.
But his efforts to evade justice pale against some of the world’s other most wanted men and women.
Here we investigate a dirty dozen who have avoid the long arm of the law for decades – even with multi-million pound prices on their heads.
After breaking out of a US prison 47 years ago, George Wright fled to Portugal, married a local woman and raised two children in a house next to the beach.
But the odd-job man locals knew as African immigrant Jorge Santos was in fact a killer and plane hijacker.
Wright murdered petrol station owner Walter Patterson during a robbery in New Jersey in 1962.
Eight years into a 30-year stretch, Wright and three other men escaped. The FBI said Wright joined the Black Liberation Army.
In 1972, while dressed as a priest, he hijacked a flight from Detroit to Miami along with four other BLA members and three children.
FBI agents were forced to hand over a $1million ransom then watch helplessly as he and his accomplices took off, disappearing for decades.
The episode spurred the decision to install scanning machines in all US airports. FBI attempts to have Wright extradited to the US have failed.
Qualified surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri founded the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad before joining Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and helping him to plot 9/11.
He is the current leader of al-Qaeda after the execution of Bin Laden and has a $25million price on his head.
Zawahiri, 65, is also wanted for his role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed hundreds of people. He has been on the FBI’s hit list ever since.
Mother-of-four Samantha Lewthwaite is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Known as the White Widow, the 33-year-old wife of 7/7 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay fled the UK for Africa and has become a key leader in Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab.
She is believed to be behind the deaths of 400 people, earning her an Interpol Red Notice, which means they want to extradite her.
She has been on the run since she plotted to blow up tourists in Mombasa, Kenya, with British terror suspect Jermaine Grant. Intelligence sources believe she is in Somalia and say she has lost weight and had plastic surgery to change her appearance.
Since running up an £11,000 bill on his dad’s stolen credit card aged 16, fraudster Mark Acklom has been in and out of jail and on the run.
In 2012, he seduced wealthy Bath divorcee Carolyn Woods, claiming to work for MI6 and a Swiss bank, to fleece her of £850,000.
After she told police, Acklom fled to Spain, where he got three years for conning two brothers out of £200,000 on the sale of buildings he didn’t own.
When he was released from jail in March, Acklom, now 43, vanished again. UK police issued a European arrest warrant and think he is back in Spain.
It’s not easy being a womanising playboy on the run – but murdering Mafioso Matteo Messina Denaro has managed it since 1993.
The boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, known for driving Porsches, and wearing a Rolex Daytona watch and designer clothes, is wanted for killing prosecutors. Don Denaro, 55, nicknamed Diabolik, also tried to kill a TV journalist in a car bombing.
After learning to use a gun at 14, he committed his first of many murders at 18 and is estimated to have killed at least 50 people. He has bragged: “I filled a cemetery all by myself.”
Killer Robert Hamilton, 63, has been free for more than 30 of the past 45 years after twice skipping jail.
He was caged for life in 1972 after battering a man to death but escaped Sudbury Prison in Derbyshire in 1983.
He was recaptured 17 years later in Montpellier in France.
But in 2003, he went on the run again after he was released on licence from Wormwood Scrubs Prison in West London.
He was among 1,400 criminals, including rapists and murderers, missing from Britain’s jails at the beginning of this year.
In December 1955, aged 22, John Patrick Hannan knotted some bedsheets together and escaped from prison in Portland, Dorset.
He has not been heard of in the six decades since – a British record for remaining at large.
If he is still alive he would be 83, but police finally gave up hope of bringing him in almost 20 years ago after one final appeal.
Believing he had returned to his native Ireland detectives wrote in a 1998 newsletter: “If you read this Mr Hannan please write in, we’d love to hear from you.” He did not reply.
Hannan, serving 21 months for car theft and assaulting police officers, escaped Portland, right, with accomplice Gwynant Thomas. He spent just 16 hours at large, but Hannan made it through roadblocks and into history.
In 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon.
He ordered a glass of bourbon before handing a flight attendant a note which read: “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.”
During refuelling, he allowed the 36 passengers to get off after being given $200,000 and four parachutes from the FBI. He then ordered the plane to fly to Mexico. Over south-western Washington State, he opened the hold and parachuted out.
Some of the money was found nine years later washed up on the banks of the Columbia River.
The FBI investigated more than 1,000 possible suspects but whoever Cooper was he was still at large last summer when the hunt was called off.
WILLIAM BISHOP jr
Diplomat William Bradford Bishop Jr spoke five languages fluently and served in US counter-intelligence. When he was snubbed for promotion in 1976, he used a hammer to brutally murder his wife, mother, three sons and his dog.
The survivalist, then 39, drove hundred of miles from the family home near Washington DC to bury them in a shallow grave.
He has been spotted in Belgium, England, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain, with the most credible sightings in Sweden, Italy and Switzerland, where investigators think he is to this day. The FBI’s Amy Thoreson said: “We’ve chased down a lot of rabbit holes in this case.” There is a $100,000 reward for his capture.
Victor Manuel Gerena is the record-holder for the longest time on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
The 59-year-old stayed on the Top 10 from May 1984 until last December for the armed robbery of a Wells Fargo armoured car. The thug got away with £7million.
The reward for his capture stands at $1million, and the investigation is ongoing.
Gerena took two security employees hostage at gunpoint and then handcuffed, bound, and injected them with aspirin and water in to disable them.
He is believed to have fled to Mexico, and then to Cuba, where is believed to be living today.
SS psychopath Aribert Heim practiced inhuman experiments at a Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen before disappearing in 1962 when his past was exposed.
He evaded a global manhunt and his death in 1992 was not revealed for another 15 years.
Hiem had actually converted to Islam and was living in Cairo as Tarek Hussein Farid.
His monstrous crimes, including performing surgery without anaesthetic, prompted the Austrian government to put up a $495,000 reward for his capture, but without success.