A POLICE manhunt was continuing late yesterday (Wednesday) for a convicted murderer who escaped while on a work release program at Cooma's Snowy Oval.
Monaro Local Area Command (LAC) Acting Superintendent Shane Box said police believe the man is still in the Cooma area, after absconding on Tuesday at lunchtime.
"The Australian Federal Police dog unit is assisting police and air support may be called on," Inspector Box said.
"Members of the community should not approach the man who is considered potentially dangerous, he is a convicted murderer.
"We don't know if he is armed. He has not threatened to harm anyone and no crimes have been committed in Cooma since his escape."
Adam Bowhay, 34, was 18 when he brutally murdered a man he just met, one night in the northern NSW town of Casino, 16 years ago.
Mr Bowhay has been serving a 23-year life sentence at the Cooma Correctional Centre, and was with two other inmates at Snowy Oval where they were line marking as part of a work release program at about 1.30pm.
During lunch, he went outside for a cigarette - and disappeared.
Cooma police immediately notified the nearby Monaro High School and door knocked residents in the vicinity of Snowy Oval to ensure they were safe.
Monaro High School was 'locked down' and students assembled in the school hall prior to leaving school in the afternoon.
Mr Bowhay was considered to be a model prisoner and along with two other inmates was being supervised by a Cooma-Monaro Shire Council staff member at the time of the escape.
According to a Corrective Services spokesperson, Mr Bowhay had a record of excellent behaviour and was eligible for release on parole only weeks away, on March 19 this year.
Mr Bowhay applied for parole a few weeks ago, but was refused because he was told he needed to do more community work to start the process of reintegrating him into the community.
Mr Bowhay is described as being of Caucasian appearance, approximately 184cm tall, medium/large build. He has a bald head and is clean shaven, with tattoos around his neck, upper arm and legs.
He was wearing work clothing when last seen, consisting of a fluorescent yellow shirt and blue and green "King Gee'' brand long pants.
Police have urged the public not to approach Mr Bowhay and call Triple Zero immediately with any information that could assist police.
Cooma-Monaro Shire Council said the prisoners work five days a week in what is called the 'community maintenance team' which has been running since 2010.
The team has assisted council with a number of works projects saving ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars.
The prisoners have helped with regular sports field marking, maintenance of parks and the showground, construction of fitness station along the bike path and Cooma Creek, painting and fence repairs and weed control.
The prisoners also assist community groups.