It’s started again. Sixteen years ago, another ‘Toby Young’ kept appearing in my email inbox. I’d created a Google Alert telling the search engine to send me an email every time my name popped up on the internet, but this Toby turned out to be a 47-year-old woman who was running the dog rehabilitation programme at a correctional facility in Leavenworth, Kansas. The reason she hit the headlines is because she fell in love with John Manard, a 25-year-old inmate serving a life sentence for murder, and smuggled him out of the prison in a dog crate. They went on the lam together for 12 days and were the subject of a nationwide manhunt – manna from tabloid heaven. After they were caught, Manard went back to his cell and Toby was sentenced to 27 months.
I thought I’d seen the last of my namesake, but this week she starting cropping up again in my Google Alerts. Turns out, an American cable channel has made a film about the unlikely couple as part of its ‘ripped from the headlines’ series. Jailbreak Lovers stars Catherine Bell as the married, church-going dog lady and Tom Stevens as the red-headed killer. To coincide with the film’s debut, Toby has written a book called Living With Conviction: Unexpected Sisterhood, Healing, and Redemption in the Wake of Life-Altering Choices which she’s energetically promoting. Her website – Escape Your Prison – says she’s available to give after–dinner speeches.
It would be easy to mock this other Toby Young, but the more I learn about her, the more sympathetic she seems. She describes herself as a rule follower, the type of person who would stop and count to three whenever she encountered a ‘Stop’ sign in her car.