How were the Death Eaters broken out from Azkaban in Order of the Phoenix?

From the Daily Prophet:

‘We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in the same position we were two and a half years ago when the murderer Sirius Black escaped,’ said Fudge last night. ‘Nor do we think the two breakouts are unrelated. An escape of this magnitude suggests outside help, and we must remember that Black, as the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, would be ideally placed to help others follow in his footsteps.

Order of the Phoenix - page 481 - Bloomsbury - chapter 25, The Beetle at Bay


Samantha: Was Snape the only Death Eater who could produce a full Patronus?

J.K. Rowling: Yes, because a Patronus is used against things that the Death Eaters generally generate, or fight alongside. They would not need Patronuses.


I'm going to guess Voldemort did not break out the nine Death Eaters himself -- it's not his style to do the dirty work. I'll further guess that it's possible a group of Death Eaters who were not incarcerated was sent to break the nine out of Azkaban. Assuming this scenario is basically possible and accurate, how were the Death Eaters broken out of Azkaban, in light of the fact that 1) Azkaban is rumored to be Unplottable¹ and 2) Death Eaters cannot produce Patronuses, and at the time of the break-out the Dementors were still under the control of the Ministry?

I'd like a canon-based answer, such as from the books, J.K. Rowling interviews, or Pottermore.

¹I cannot find verification that Azkaban is Unplottable in any of the J.K. Rowling interviews I have bookmarked or in canon. The HP Wikia says Azkaban is Unplottable, but I would prefer canon verification. I'm sure I've heard that Azkaban is Unplottable before, from another source, but I just cannot find it this morning! On the other hand, if Azkaban is Unplottable, how would any Death Eater know how to get there to facilitate a break in to begin with?

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    Michael Bay movies are unplottable. Er, maybe that's plotless. I forget.
    – John O
    Nov 19, 2012 at 17:34
  • Dementors were originally the guards for Azkaban, but they were replaced at some point. I haven't seen anything saying just who or what they were replaced with. Knowing that Death Eaters had were positioned in high levels of government, I don't find it unreasonable that someone (an official or new guard) was made aware of the exact location of Azkaban
    – phantom42
    Nov 19, 2012 at 18:18
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    @phantom42 -- Did we even get to know who or what replaced the Dementors as the Azkaban guards? If I were to guess, I would say the Dementors were replaced with human guards. I think that would've been after the events of Deathly Hallows, though, but that's just a guess. The Ministry was corrupt; you're right that it probably wouldn't have been too hard to find out the location of Azkaban if you knew the right people. :) Nov 22, 2012 at 4:04
  • See also a similar question on Movies & TV SE: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/11314 How did the Death Eaters physically escape from Azkaban?
    – b_jonas
    May 2, 2014 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


The key to this question is in your statement: "at the time of the break-out the Dementors were still under the control of the Ministry." Were they?

Remember, Dementors served whomever they felt like serving. They worked for the Ministry since they were guaranteed to continue their existence by feeding off the misery innate within Azkaban's walls. They are first and foremost Dark creatures, and they definitely were not bound to the Ministry. As Voldemort told his followers, the Dementors are his "natural allies."

Additionally, this wouldn't have been the first dereliction of duty from the Dementors that year. Earlier in the year, they had attacked Harry and Dudley in Little Whinging, as seen in Chapter 1 of Order of the Phoenix.

As Dumbledore said:

‘If it is true that the Dementors are taking orders only from the Ministry of Magic, and it is also true that two Dementors attacked Harry and his cousin a week ago, then it follows logically that somebody at the Ministry might have ordered the attacks,’ said Dumbledore politely. ‘Of course, these particular Dementors may have been outside Ministry control –’
‘There are no Dementors outside Ministry control!’ snapped Fudge, who had turned brick red.

I believe they felt Voldemort's return, a "disturbance in the Force," so to speak. If they were not yet in contact with him, they probably knew he was back. They go where the misery goes, so to speak. They facilitated the DE escape from Azkaban, in order to set loose more misery elsewhere.

Hermione echoes this suspicion, when she reads the Ministry's claim that Black helped them escape:

‘I don’t believe this,’ snarled Harry, ‘Fudge is blaming the breakout on Sirius?’
‘What other options does he have?’ said Hermione bitterly. ‘He can hardly say, “Sorry, everyone, Dumbledore warned me this might happen, the Azkaban guards have joined Lord Voldemort” – stop whimpering, Ron – “and now Voldemort’s worst supporters have broken out, too.” I mean, he’s spent a good six months telling everyone you and Dumbledore are liars, hasn’t he?’

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    However the attack on Harry is implied to be a ministry sanctioned event. Dolores later admits that she was the one that sent the dementors on Harry so I don't think that event is necessarily evidence for your argument. I do, however, think the rest of your answer is pretty spot on.
    – Dason
    Nov 19, 2012 at 19:43
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    Dolores Umbridge's own loyalties are highly suspect to me. I don't think it's ever confirmed who she works for, ultimately, or if she's her own agent of evil. She seemed to be loyal to Fudge, sending the Dementors to attempt to discredit Harry, but she certainly warmed up quickly to the Death Eaters in book 7. It's entirely likely in my mind she was an agent of V all along, possibly even serving as his liason to the Dementors. She wouldn't have been the only double agent in the Ministry. Nov 19, 2012 at 20:13
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    @Gabe: Umbridge has no loyalties. He serves the side that seems strongest at any moment, willing to change at any time. I seem to remember a JKR interview answer about Umbridge's future after the Deathly Hallows seems to suggest this.
    – b_jonas
    Nov 19, 2012 at 20:38
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    @DVK I don't have to Google that. I'm surrounded by them. :P Nov 19, 2012 at 22:02
  • 1
    Well, ostensibly the Dementors were still the Azkaban guards at the time of the break out in OotP. In HBP, in The Other Minister, the Dementors have absconded: ‘I thought Dementors guard the prisoners in Azkaban?’ [the Prime Minister] said cautiously. ‘They did,’ said Fudge wearily. ‘But not any more. They’ve deserted the prison and joined He Who Must Not Be Named. I won’t pretend that wasn’t a blow.’ I think it would be fair to assume the Dementors were restless during OotP and at the very least starting to prepare to abscond. But it appears they went AWOL at the end of OotP. Nov 22, 2012 at 4:17

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