Tunnelling under the prison walls has long been a favourite method of breaking out of jail, but now one female convict in the Netherlands has managed to gain her freedom by digging herself out with a spoon.

The 35-year-old prisoner displayed her resourcefulness with cutlery to escape from a prison in the Dutch city of Breda, in the south of the country.

"She used a spoon to make the tunnel to escape on Sunday morning," Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, said yesterday.

According to the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, the tunnel was dug not in the prisoner's room but in a cellar under the building's kitchen. A hatch was used to keep the escape route hidden.

It is also believed that the fugitive was abetted by one or more collaborators. They are thought to have helped the prisoner by working loose parts of the pavement outside the jail where the tunnel emerged.

At the time, the prisoner was reportedly being held in a special building where long-term inmates are kept in the run-up to their release.

As a result they have more freedom than in the standard cells - something the woman in question took full advantage of.

The prisoner - who has not been named - "was sentenced because of a violent crime", Mr de Bruin added, although he would not confirm local media reports that she had been convicted of murder and still had 22 months of her sentence to serve.

Dutch police are still searching for her.