Ex-con Russell Manser’s TikTok social media account shares grim realities of Australian prison life

From how murderers are treated in prison to the moment an inmate was knocked out with a CARROT: Ex-con shares the reality of life in jail – and the ingenious way he once managed to escape

  • One of Australia’s most relentless bank robbers has shared what life’s like in jail 
  • Russell Manser uses social media to share the inside stories from Aussie lock-ups
  • He tells all about prison etiquette while warning youth against being ‘gangsters’ 

A reformed bank robber has amassed a huge online following sharing the grim realities of life behind bars with dangerous murderers, rapists and bikie kingpins. 

Russell Manser’s frank assessments of Aussie prison life aim to warm young people off the ‘gangster’ life on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

He has no explained how violent life inside can be, with frequent outbreaks of violence including one man beating another with a carrot.

The former prisoner’s exploits are fast becoming legendary online, as he told the story of how he busted out of custody by crafting a handcuff key using a dustpan.

Manser’s criminal career began while he was still a child, car-jacking in Sydney’s western suburbs.

He then matured into prolific over-the-counter bank robberies, stealing from tellers all over Australia in the 1990s.

Ex-con Russell Manser (pictured right) has attracted large online following for his straight-talking videos about his time within the Australian prison system

Ex-con Russell Manser (pictured right) has attracted large online following for his straight-talking videos about his time within the Australian prison system

Manser (pictured with his partner) now runs a support and advocacy group that helps connect survivors of abuse, prisoners, and former prisoners with legal advice and rehabilitation

Manser (pictured with his partner) now runs a support and advocacy group that helps connect survivors of abuse, prisoners, and former prisoners with legal advice and rehabilitation

‘For me it was always about educating people. My big thing is about the prison system we have in this country and looking at (better solutions),’ Manser told Daily Mail Australia of his recent project.

‘People are thanking me for the videos, thanking me for being informative. They’ll say things like ‘I never knew this was what went on’.’ 

Manser reckons the feedback has been ’97 per cent positive’. 

His exploits, however, resulted in Manser spending multiple lengthy spells behind bars.

During one of his prison stints, Manser crafted a handcuff key to bust out of custody with fellow inmates.

His retelling of the incident has racked up more than 100,000 TikTok views some 30 years after the incident.

In the video, he describes how he made the key out of a dust pan before using it to uncuff one of his hands.

With his free hand he threw salt into the eyes of police officers and ‘punched on’.

‘We did our best…on that day we got the better of them,’ he says of the fight.

Manser's (pictured) troubled past saw him in and out of prison throughout his life as a young adult, first for a string of car-jackings and later for multiple bank robberies

Manser’s (pictured) troubled past saw him in and out of prison throughout his life as a young adult, first for a string of car-jackings and later for multiple bank robberies

Manser recalled how he used his dangling handcuff to cover his knuckles and inflict more damage, beating six officers who were supposed to march he and fellow inmates to court. 

He then fled the scene with another prisoner, hitching a ride with a nearby man who was painting his house. 

Two days later, he says, he stuck-up the National Australia Bank in Turramurra, before hiding out first in Perth and then in Darwin, where he did one more bank robbery before cops nabbed him getting off a bus.

‘All fun and games at the time, it felt like. But it didn’t feel very good when I was doing the 15-year jail sentence that went with it,’ he tells viewers.

‘So that was my prison escapade, don’t recommend it to anyone, wasn’t much fun.’

In another video, Manser recounted the time he saw a prisoner use a carrot to beat a cellmate. 

Windsor’s medium-security John Moroney prison reportedly allowed some prisoners to grow food in vegetable gardens.

A few of Manser’s friends had reputations for growing huge varieties of carrots which they would leave on the block table for other prisoners to admire and cook with.

One day the big carrots found an alternate use when an inmate began screaming while being given a DIY prison tattoo.

Manser (pictured robbing a bank) made crime his career, robbing banks across Australia, before a Royal Commission and the horrors of prison finally made him turn his life around

Manser (pictured robbing a bank) made crime his career, robbing banks across Australia, before a Royal Commission and the horrors of prison finally made him turn his life around

The inmate’s bellowing from the pain managed to rouse another burly con from his sleep in his cell. 

‘He woke up and said ‘who’s making that noise’ and the tattoo artist pushed old mate out and said ‘mate you’ve got to go and have it up’,’ recalled Manser.

The half-tattooed inmate was sent toward the grumpy con to settle the issue.  

According to Manser, the inmate who had been disturbed picked up one of the oversized carrots from the table and swung it into the chin of the half-tattooed prisoner.

‘He’s the first person in the world to have ever been knocked out with a carrot. That is a true story,’ Manser said. 

Russell Manser tells of the time he saw one prisoner knock another one out with a carrot 

In another video Manser revealed that murderers weren’t feared more than anyone else in the prison pecking order – because every prisoner could be just as dangerous.

‘People ask me: ‘Did I come across many murderers in jail?’ I did, I came across plenty of them.

‘They were just the same as anyone else – just another bum in the showers as they’d say.

‘As far as posing threats or anything like that, for me personally (it was) not something I was really too scared of.’

He revealed murderers in prison aren’t treated any differently in prison for the most part, and aren’t necessarily top-dogs in the yard just because of the grievous nature of their crimes. 

‘Because someone’s pinched on a murder, in there, it doesn’t mean jack s***.’ 

Who is Russell Manser?

One-time career criminal Russell Manser has spent years in the Australian prison system. 

Growing up in Mount Druitt in Sydney’s west as the son of British factory workers, Manser idolised the flash cars, women and clothes that seemed to surround the gangsters in the area.

Manser began his criminal career boosting cars and abusing recreational drugs. When Manser was 17, the Attorney-General made an example of him, after he and his mates car-jacked a luxury Porsche from the affluent northern beaches. 

He was jailed in an adults’ prison despite being a minor to prevent other Western Suburbs kids from recreating his crime.

In jail, Manser was subjected to sexual abuse and offered far heavier drugs than he had abused before. 

When released Manser began robbing banks and was addicted to heroin. He robbed five banks in the early 1990s including the Commonwealth Bank in Lane Cove from which he took $90,000 in one swoop.

By the age of 23, the career criminal had been sentenced to 15 years behind bars, with a non-parole period of seven-and-a-half years. 

Upon his release, Manser started a business, got married and welcomed two boys into the world.

However the short-lived period of peace was disrupted by memories of his abuse, which were becoming harder to ignore.

His marriage broke down and Manser numbed the pain with drugs and alcohol, returning to his hallmark of robbing banks – this time leaving fingerprints.

Behind bars again, he risked his neck to contribute to a Royal Commission into sexual abuse, with many other inmates beginning to think he was tattling to the police whenever he used the prison phones. 

After a gruelling 23-year stretch in prison, Manser decided he wouldn’t rob another bank, or boost another single car – instead beginning a program guiding trauma survivors, especially those who had suffered in prison. 

He has also since started a podcast ‘The Stick Up’ discussing true crime, prison, abuse, and survivorship.

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Manser’s focus in many of his videos on convincing youth they don’t want to be like him.

Videos detail the dangers of prison, the impact it had on those around him and mental health. He also muses about prison culture and the romanticisation of crime.

In one video entitled ‘you don’t want to be a gangster’, Manser looks dead to camera and addresses would-be crims.

‘You, young fella, thinking it’s cool to be a gangster. It ain’t, it’s dog shit,’ he begins the video, which has been watched more than 15,000 times.

‘Those gangsters, they ain’t telling you half the story man, they’re not telling you about the f***ing loneliness in prison, the s*** food, the s*** treatment, your family come to see you in prison and they get treated so badly.

‘They don’t tell you about years and years and years and years of your life wasted.’

‘The real hero, the working man who gets up rain hail or shine, puts f***ing food on the table for their family. That’s the real hero man,’ he says.

‘You’re the one who’s never going to get caught? Jail’s full of them. You can have a better life just by getting up, using your brain, putting in.’

Manser (pictured) has been through the ringer himself, having been abused in a boys' corrective centre and again in multiple prisons across the country. Since leaving prison he's made it his mission to assist sexual assault and abuse survivors in prison

Manser (pictured) has been through the ringer himself, having been abused in a boys’ corrective centre and again in multiple prisons across the country. Since leaving prison he’s made it his mission to assist sexual assault and abuse survivors in prison

Manser (above, with his partner) shares his prison stories on social media in the hope he can spark changes to Australia's correctional system

Manser (above, with his partner) shares his prison stories on social media in the hope he can spark changes to Australia’s correctional system

The comment section in the video appears to show his content speaks to many Australians.

‘Well said, mate,’ wrote commenters.

‘Oh, I wish my son heard this about 10 years ago! He comes home from Cessnock next year, been in and out since he was 14,’ said a despairing mother. 

‘You can still have a cool motorcycle and a cool car without being a gangster, I think that’s what some people don’t understand,’ said another man. 

Other videos reveal how many behave in jail, with terrifying tales that would scare many ‘straight’.

Manser said he knew he needed to start making more prison videos from the feedback on his first social media posts.

‘I was just seeing how naïve the public are, there was no rehab (in prison), there was only retribution and punishment, people believe this whole notion that people need to be punished and locked away like animals,

‘It doesn’t work that way and so I’d love to be a part of the change.  

‘I think the time is right now to start educating people on this. People, through covid, experienced being locked in their houses – imagine being locked in your bathroom for 23 years.’ 

He says he gets the occasional message telling him to ‘suck it up’ or saying prisoners like himself deserved harsh treatment in prison. 

Manser’s partner gets upset when she reads comments like those, but the ex-con is unfazed by them, confident he’s doing the right thing.

‘I’ve apologised 1001 times for the things I’ve done, and look, I’ll apologise another, but I think my remorse is reflective in the work I’ve been doing.’

Manser has made multiple public appearances following a Royal Commission into sexual abuse that changed the course of his life. 

Jail-rape and paedophilia were an undeniable part of Manser’s experience in prison – he was a victim of vile assaults from a young age. 

He wrote to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and was visited by a representative, before finally receiving an apology from the NSW government and compensation, three decades after he was abused at Daruk Boys Home. 

Manser now runs an advocacy group that helps connect survivors of abuse, prisoners, and former prisoners with legal advice, treatment and rehabilitation.

It began when other inmates started suspecting he was ratting to police on the phone in the prison yard.

He faced the other cons and, gulping down his fear, told them who he was really on the phone to – the commission into sexual abuse.

Prison mates responded to the news by moving toward Manser in the yard but, instead of bashing or mocking him, they extended handshakes and hugs.

Several inmates even asked how they could share their own stories of abuse.

‘That’s basically where the Voice of the Survivor was formed. I just had this way of people telling me their stories and feeling at ease,’ he previously told the ABC.

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