Escaped prisoner ‘absolutely’ may have left country already amid calls for prison to be shut down

Police say it is “absolutely possible” that Daniel Khalife has already left the country, or that he had outside help to escape prison, as the search for the fugitive terror suspect enters its third day.

Met Police counter-terrorism commander Dominic Murphy said he was keeping an “open mind” as to whether Khalife had received support from somebody to escape prison and whether he had managed to leave the country. Ports and airports were put on high alert in the hours after Khalife’s disappearance.

An intelligence official told The Independent on Thursday that “all the indications are that this was an orchestrated job and not an opportunistic escape”.

“It is almost certain that he had some inside help from the prison.”Meanwhile, the chief inspector of prisons has called for the closure of Wandsworth prison after Khalife, who is accused of planting fake bombs at a military base before he allegedly “graduated” to attempted spying for Iran, succeeded in escaping by clinging onto a delivery van.

Charlie Taylor said the building was “not a suitable prison” as reports emerge of staff shortages and “chaos” at the Category B jail.

It comes as justice secretary Alex Chalk said “no stone must be left unturned” to uncover how Khalife escaped.

Key Points

Table of Contents

  • Police keeping ‘open mind’ on whether escaped terror suspect has left country

  • Police search for fugitive terror suspect in Richmond Park

  • Pictured: Van that Daniel Khalife clung to as he escaped prison

  • ‘Strapping’ found underneath delivery van as urgent reviews announced

  • Wandsworth prison escape a ‘catastrophic system failure’

  • Who is Daniel Abed Khalife? Royal Signals soldier accused of planting fake bombs

  • Why wasn’t Khalife at Belmarsh?

Recap: Chief Inspector of Prisons says Wandsworth ‘needs closing’

07:29 , Tara Cobham

The jail from which former soldier Daniel Khalife escaped “really needs closing”, the prisons watchdog said on Thursday evening.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said “in an ideal world” Wandsworth would be shut, but “there are only just enough prisons” for the population of inmates.

Wandsworth prison’s performance was rated a “serious concern” and watchdogs had issued a string of warnings about the jail in the past year before Khalife escaped.

The category B reception and resettlement men’s prison, which opened in 1851, is one of only nine jails out of 119 in England and Wales whose performance has been called into question recently.

Governor Katie Price presides over the Victorian jail, which holds about 1,600 defendants appearing at London courts and offenders due to be released, in five wings.

Mr Taylor told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “When you find a prison like Wandsworth, it really needs closing. Ultimately, it’s not a suitable prison.”

But, he added: “You need jails because you need to service the courts. We’ve actually got a crisis at the moment in prisons just in terms of population places. So there are only just enough prisons, places available, at the moment for the number of prisoners who are coming in.”

In video: Daniel Khalife ‘will be found and made to face justice’, says justice secretary

07:00 , Namita Singh

Daniel Khalife ‘will be found and made to face justice’, says justice secretary

Police search for fugitive terror suspect in Richmond Park

06:40 , Namita Singh

With no confirmed sightings of Daniel Abed Khalife, police are searching for him in Richmond Park, reported Sky News.

The officials are guarding the key entry and exit points with police helicopters overhead.

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of a CCTV image of the vehicle searched by police in the hunt for Daniel Khalife (PA)

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of a CCTV image of the vehicle searched by police in the hunt for Daniel Khalife (PA)

The focus on the park comes despite investigators admitting there is every possibility he has already escaped the country.

All we know about how suspected terrorist Daniel Abed Khalife escaped HMP Wandsworth

06:20 , Namita Singh

Questions are being asked as to how a suspected terrorist managed to escape a London prison.

Daniel Abed Khalife, a former British Army soldier, is thought to have used straps to cling onto a food delivery van while wearing a chef’s uniform and distinctive red and white chequered trousers.

He was awaiting trial for providing information about the British army to the enemy. As of Thursday morning, there has been no reported trace of his whereabouts.

Airports are on high alert with officials fearing he may have already escaped the United Kingdom.

In the story, we look at everything we know about the prison escape so far.

All we know about how suspected terrorist escaped HMP Wandsworth as manhunt continues

Independent investigation into terror suspect’s prison escape to take place

06:00 , Namita Singh

An independent investigation will take place following the prison escape of a former soldier accused of terrorism, the Justice Secretary has said.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, who according to reports is accused of gathering information for Iran, went missing in his cook’s uniform from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday, prompting extra security checks at major transport hubs.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told MPs that two urgent reviews would also take place regarding the categorisation and placement of all HMP Wandsworth prisoners and all those in custody charged with terrorism offences.

Report:

Independent investigation into terror suspect’s prison escape to take place

Police reveal route of lorry Daniel Khalife used to escape

05:40 , Namita Singh

The Metropolitan Police have released the route of a delivery lorry to which they believe Daniel Khalife strapped himself as part of his escape from prison.

More than 150 officers and staff have been working around the clock to try to apprehend Khalife, 21, the force said.

The police said a nationwide alert has been issued for the former soldier, leading to increased security at ports and borders.

But so far there have not been any confirmed sightings.

Report:

Route of lorry to which police believe Daniel Khalife strapped himself

Exclusive: ‘Almost certain’ terror suspect who escaped Wandsworth prison had inside help

05:20 , Namita Singh

Security official tells The Independent the escape was ‘orchestrated not opportunistic’ – as it’s revealed inmate was questioned over spying for Iran.

Kim Sengupta and Amy-Clare Martin report:

‘Almost certain’ terror suspect who escaped from Wandsworth prison had inside help

Justice secretary confirms independent investigation in Khalife’s escape

05:00 , Namita Singh

The Justice Secretary confirmed an independent investigation will take place following Khalife’s escape.

Alex Chalk told MPs two urgent reviews would also take place regarding the categorisation and placement of all HMP Wandsworth prisoners and all those in custody charged with terrorism offences.

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Daniel Abed Khalife (PA)

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Daniel Abed Khalife (PA)

Wandsworth prison’s performance was rated a “serious concern” and watchdogs had issued a string of warnings about the jail in the past year before Khalife escaped.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor told the PA news agency staff shortages are “the source of many problems” at the prison and later said that “in an ideal world” Wandsworth would be shut.

Timeline of Khalife’s escape

04:40 , Namita Singh

Daniel Khalife went missing in his cook’s uniform from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday, prompting extra security checks at major transport hubs.

The lorry Khalife is believed to have strapped himself to left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32am on Wednesday.

He was declared missing at 7.50am.

Police were notified at 8.15am.

The lorry was stopped on Upper Richmond Road, near to the junction of Carlton Drive, at 8.37am.

While no trace of Khalife was found inside the van, strappings were discovered which suggested he had been clinging on to its underside as it was exiting the prison gates.

Police have ‘no confirmed sightings’

04:20 , Namita Singh

In a press briefing on Thursday, Dominic Murphy said that there have not been any confirmed sightings of Daniel Khalife.

“This was a really busy area of London and we’ve had no confirmed sightings in any of that information, which is a little unusual, and perhaps testament to Daniel Khalife‘s ingenuity in his escape and some of his movements after his escape.

“He was a trained soldier – so ultimately he has skills that perhaps some sections of the public don’t have.

“He’s a very resourceful individual, clearly, and our experience of him shows that, so nothing is off the table with him at the moment.”

Police keeping ‘open mind’ on whether escaped terror suspect has left country

03:58 , Namita Singh

Police have refused to rule out that Daniel Khalife has left the country, or that he had outside help to escape prison, as the search for the fugitive terror suspect enters its third day.

Former soldier Khalife, who according to reports is accused of gathering information for Iran, went missing in his cook’s uniform from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday, prompting extra security checks at major transport hubs.

Strapping was found on the underside of a Bidfood delivery vehicle which police stopped just over an hour after it left the prison, with officers suggesting Khalife held on to the underside of the lorry to escape.

Prison guards walk around the sides of a van at the gates of HM Prison Wandsworth in south London on 7 September 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Prison guards walk around the sides of a van at the gates of HM Prison Wandsworth in south London on 7 September 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

His disappearance has prompted questions over staffing levels at HMP Wandsworth and why he was being held in a Category B prison.

The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism commander said it is “testament to the ingenuity” of the 21-year-old that there have been no confirmed sightings since he escaped prison.

Dominic Murphy said he was keeping an “open mind” as to whether Khalife had received support from somebody to escape prison and whether he had managed to leave the country.

He said more than 150 investigators and police staff from counter terrorism command were working in London on the investigation and officers had received more than 50 calls from the public which had provided “some really valuable lines of inquiry”.

Video: Ben Shephard accuses MP of ‘trying to score political points’ in terror suspect hunt

02:00 , William Mata

This is the moment Good Morning Britain host Ben Shephard accused Conservative minister Michelle Donelan of trying to score political points in the hunt for a terror suspect.

Will a royal commission looking at the criminal justice system be launched?

01:00 , William Mata

A royal commission looking into the criminal justice system was promised in the Conservative Party’s manifesto ahead of winning the 2019 general election.

Ministers are facing growing calls to urgently honour this pledge after Daniel Khalife’s escape.

Prison officers’ union the POA called for an “urgent” royal commission in the wake of the incident, saying that, without one, problems are “just going to get worse”.

So far the Government has been unable to say what recent progress has been made to honour the commitment.

Boris Johnson’s government pledged a royal commission looking into the criminal justice system (Reuters)

Boris Johnson’s government pledged a royal commission looking into the criminal justice system (Reuters)

How did Daniel Khalife escape prison?

Friday 8 September 2023 00:00 , William Mata

Our video from Thursday explains how Daniel Khalife was able to make a quick exit from HMP Wandsworth.

‘Almost certain’ terror suspect who escaped Wandsworth prison had inside help

Thursday 7 September 2023 23:00 , William Mata

Intelligence sources have said it is “almost certain” a terror suspect who escaped from a prison while strapped to the bottom of a food delivery truck had inside help to flee.

A nationwide manhunt is underway after former soldier Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, fled HMP Wandsworth wearing a chef’s uniform on Wednesday morning.

Khalife, who is accused of planting fake bombs at a military base, allegedly “graduated” to attempted spying for Iran, The Independent understands, as the hunt continues to stop him fleeing the country.

“All the indications are that this was an orchestrated job and not an opportunistic escape. It is almost certain that he had some inside help from the prison,” the intelligence official said.

Police have not divulged their theories on this or whether there is any evidence to suggest this, but it will form part of their investigation.

No-one has been arrested or interviewed under caution in connection with the incident.

See the full story here.

Who is Daniel Abed Khalife? Royal Signals soldier accused of planting fake bombs

Thursday 7 September 2023 22:00 , William Mata

A soldier turned terror suspect, Daniel Abed Khalife is now the subject of a nationwide manhunt after outwitting the guards at a London prison.

He escaped in a chef’s outfit by using straps to cling onto a food delivery van, with his current location unknown.

With airports and ports installing additional security measures and holidaymakers reporting delays at border control, his escape has posed serious questions about the suitability of his incarceration at a Category B prison.

Here is the full story from Holly Evans and Andy Gregory on who Khalife is.

Comment: It’s prison break — the new must-watch Marvel comic mini-series

Thursday 7 September 2023 21:30 , William Mata

How do you distract the public from nine straight days of coverage of rows about dangerous concrete?

Easy! Let a suspected terrorist escape from prison.

Currently, no one knows where the rather hipsterish-looking Daniel Abed Khalife is. An international manhunt is underway. But wherever he happens to be, you can imagine he is already working on his defence.

Tom Peck writes his take on the fine art of ‘deadcatting’..

 (PA / Google Earth)

(PA / Google Earth)

Why was Daniel Khalife allowed to work in the kitchen?

Thursday 7 September 2023 21:00 , William Mata

Daniel Khalife was working in the prison’s kitchen where he was able to escape from on Wednesday.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor told the PA news agency a prisoner has to earn a “certain level of trust” in order to be allowed to work in a kitchen.

He said: “If you’re a prisoner who’s working in the kitchen, you would have earned a certain level of trust anyway, because you would have been seen as someone who could be safe around things like knives, so you would only be allowed to do that and you earn some trust as a prisoner, so you would have kept your nose clean.”

Daniel Khalife (Met Police)

Daniel Khalife (Met Police)

Why was Khalife in Wandsworth and not a higher security prison?

Thursday 7 September 2023 20:30 , William Mata

Before his escape, Daniel Khalife was reportedly initially in custody at maximum security Belmarsh prison, where terrorist prisoners and those accused of such offences are often held, but later transferred.

Wandsworth is a lower grade prison and no prisoner has ever escaped from Belmarsh, a category A jail in London’s south east.

John Podmore, a former governor at HMP Brixton and HMP Belmarsh, told the BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “My view is that he should have been at Belmarsh.

“It’s much more suited to the levels of security that someone like this – charged with, not convicted – needs. I can’t understand why he wasn’t at Belmarsh.”

HMP Belmarsh - a higher security prison (PA Archive)

HMP Belmarsh – a higher security prison (PA Archive)

Wandsworth Prison ‘really needs closing’ says chief inspector

Thursday 7 September 2023 20:00 , William Mata

Charlie Taylor, the HM chief inspector of prisons, has said that the prison from which Daniel Khalife escaped needs to be closed.

“When you see a prison like Wandsworth it ultimately needs closing,” he told Sky News on Thursday night.

“In an ideal world I would [close it] but we need jails as they serve the courts.

“We have a crisis at the moment in terms of places.”

He added: “There are only just enough number of places available at the moment for those coming in.”

The route that the van carrying Daniel Khalife took out of Wandsworth Prison and beyond

Thursday 7 September 2023 19:43 , William Mata

Daniel Khalife’s route out of Wandsworth Prison and beyond can be seen on a map for the first time.

The vehicle left HMP Wandsworth and turned right out of the gate and onto Heathfield Road and then left onto Magdalen Road. It then turns left onto Trinity Road and up to the Wandsworth Road roundabout where it took the first exit to Swandon Way and then left onto Old York Road which is just past Wandsworth Town train station.

It then went left into Fairfield Street and then right onto Wandsworth High Street (the A3) and then straight ahead to West Hill which leads up to Upper Richmond Road. It was stopped at on Upper Richmond Road at the junction with Carlton Drive.

Daniel Khalife followed this route while attached to a vehicle (Google Earth / PA)

Daniel Khalife followed this route while attached to a vehicle (Google Earth / PA)

‘Open mind’ if Khalife has left country, say Met Police

Thursday 7 September 2023 19:24 , Holly Evans

When asked if Khalife may have left the country, Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism command, said: “Of course we remain open to that.

“It’s absolutely possible . . . he has already left the country. There’s been a huge effort in borders around the country trying to identify if he has already left.

“We believe him to be here, but we keep an open mind.”

Close down Wandsworth jail, says chief inspector of prisons

Thursday 7 September 2023 19:15 , Holly Evans

Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, has told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge that Wandsworth prison should be shut down.

He said: “When you find a prison like Wandsworth, it really needs closing ultimately – it is not a suitable prison.

“In an ideal world one would, but of course you need jails because you need to service the courts.

“We’ve actually got a crisis at the moment in prisons just in terms of population and places, so there are only just enough prison places available at the moment for the number of prisoners who are coming in.

“And of course that puts a huge strain on the system, so in a huge jail like Wandsworth you are getting people in, you are getting them to court, you are getting them back from court and then as soon as they’ve been sentenced, they are being moved onto another jail as quickly as possible.

“And it is something about that churn that also adds to the general complications and sometimes what feels like chaos in some of those big local prisons like Wandsworth.”

Police comb the UK and put ports on alert

Thursday 7 September 2023 18:45 , William Mata

More than 150 investigators and police staff are on the case to find Daniel Khalife, according to Metropolitan Police Commander Dominic Murphy, who is the lead investigator.

“We have issued a nationwide alert that has resulted in increased security at our ports and borders, however currently there have not been any confirmed sightings,” he said.

Airports and ports are still on high alert and it is taking longer for passages, they have warned.

This is especially in and around the Port of Dover, the main boat crossing from England to France.

Port of Dover (stock image) (PA)

Port of Dover (stock image) (PA)

Pictured: Van that Daniel Khalife clung to as he escaped prison

Thursday 7 September 2023 18:28 , Katy Clifton

The food delivery van that terror suspect Daniel Khalife clung to as he broke out of prison has been pictured for the first time.

The Metropolitan Police released a CCTV image of the Bidfood delivery van, which was stopped on Upper Richmond Road around one hour after it left Wandsworth prison.

 (Metropolitan Police)

(Metropolitan Police)

‘It’s quite possible it is complete incompetence’

Thursday 7 September 2023 18:13 , William Mata

Former Wandsworth prison inmate David Shipley has said “it is entirely possible” that Daniel Khalife escaped from the site due to “complete incompetence”.

Vehicles leaving the prison, he said, would be checked with a mirror underneath.

“It’s bizarre and the governor is going to have to answer as to why that didn’t happen,” he told Sky News.

“It’s quite possible it is complete incompetence and gate staff are often the most junior staff. They are poorly paid and often recently joined the prison system.”

A general view of signage and security cameras at HMP Wandsworth in London (PA)

A general view of signage and security cameras at HMP Wandsworth in London (PA)

More than 150 investigators and staff working in London

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:59 , William Mata

Police commander Dominic Murphy said there were more than 150 investigators and staff from counter terrorism command working in London on the “fast paced investigation” to find Daniel Khalife.

Forces and agencies around the country are working on the campaign to find the 21-year-old.

He said the van Khalife is believed to be strapped to the bottom of left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32am on Wednesday. He was declared missing at 7.50am.

Police were then notified at 8.15am and the van was stopped on Upper Richmond Drive near to the junction of Carlton Road at 8.37am.

Carlton Road in Wandsworth (Google Maps)

Carlton Road in Wandsworth (Google Maps)

More than 50 calls made to police but escape is ‘testament to engenuity’ of soldier

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:51 , William Mata

The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism commander has said it is “testament to the ingenuity” of former soldier Daniel Khalife that there have been no confirmed sightings since he escaped prison.

The Met’s counter-terrorism commander, Dominic Murphy, told reporters the force had received more than 50 calls from the public which had provided “some really valuable lines of inquiry”.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Mr Murphy said: “This was a really busy area of London and we’ve had no confirmed sightings in any of that information, which is a little unusual, and perhaps testament to Daniel Khalife’s ingenuity in his escape and some of his movements after his escape.”

‘If he had been at Belmarsh, this wouldn’t have happened’ prison governor says

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:46 , William Mata

John Podmore, former governor of Brixton and Belmarsh prisons, told The Independent: “If he had been at Belmarsh, this wouldn’t have happened.”

He said security measures implemented at Category A prisons under his leadership mean that food deliveries are inspected and unloaded in a secure area outside of the main prison grounds.

“Whereas at the likes of Wandsworth there’s no facility to do that so stuff is coming in and out on a regular basis,” he said.

He said it was “extraordinary” that a terror suspect was not held at Belmarsh, especially considering he was due to stand trial at neighbouring Woolwich Crown Court in November.

He said checks underneath, on top and inside vehicles were “basic” procedure, adding: “Something has gone drastically wrong.

“Whether it’s nefarious with collusion from inside the prison or just a massive cock up, I don’t know.

“But the longer he’s out without being caught the more I think about collusion rather than the guy just got lucky and made an opportunistic escape.”

He added that someone in the prison’s security department should have prevented a terror suspect on remand from getting a job in a prison kitchen.

“It is just very, very vulnerable due to the frequent flow of traffic and goods and people,” he continued, adding it was either a case of “gross mismanagement” or corruption.

“If he’s caught in the next 24 to 48 hours then he’s a chance escapee. The longer it goes the more it suggests it was planned, orchestrated and he had help.”

More than 150 investigators working on nationwide manhunt

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:37 , Katy Clifton

Commander Dominic Murphy said there were more than 150 investigators and police staff from counter terrorism command working in London on the “fast paced investigation” to find Daniel Khalife, with support from forces and agencies around the country.

‘He’s a very resourceful individual’

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:35 , Will Mata

Asked about whether Daniel Khalife had been helped to escape and if he had access to money, Commander Dominic Murphy said this forms part of the Metropolitan Police investigation, adding: “He’s out in the open now, so who’s to say whether he has money available to him now, but that’s part of our inquiry and what we’re trying to understand.

“He’s a very resourceful individual, clearly, and our experience of him shows that, so nothing is off the table with him at the moment.”

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

No confirmed sightings of Daniel Khalife

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:32 , Will Mata

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said officers had so far not received any confirmed sightings of Daniel Khalife since he escaped from Wandsworth prison.

As he set out details of the route taken by the van before it was stopped by police, which Khalife was believed to have been strapped underneath as it left the prison, he said the force had received more than 50 calls from the public which had provided “some really valuable lines of inquiry”.

In a briefing on Thursday, he told reporters: “This was a really busy area of London and we’ve had no confirmed sightings in any of that information, which is a little unusual and perhaps a testament to Daniel Khalife‘s ingenuity in his escape and some of his movements after his escape.

“It’s important that we remember we have some of the best military in the world here in the UK and he was a trained soldier. So, ultimately, he has skills that perhaps some sections of the public don’t have and I am really keen that we are using everything in our means to find him.”

Police reveal Daniel Khalife’s escape route

Thursday 7 September 2023 17:26 , William Mata

The route which Daniel Khalife took to escape from Wandsworth prison on Wednesday has been revealed by police.

The force said the vehicle left the prison at 7.32am and turned right out of the gate and onto Heathfield Road and then left onto Magdalen Road.

Police shared the route in a briefing on Thursday.

The spokesman added: “It then turns left onto Trinity Road (the A214) and up to the Wandsworth Road roundabout where it takes first exit to Swandon Way and then left onto Old York Road which is just past Wandsworth Town train station.

“It then went left into Fairfield Street and then right onto Wandsworth High Street (the A3) and then straight Ahead to West Hill which leads up to Upper Richmond Road. It was stopped at 08.37 on Upper Richmond Road at the junction with Carlton Drive.”

 (PA)

(PA)

A prisoner has to earn a ‘certain level of trust’ to work in the kitchens

Thursday 7 September 2023 16:24 , Holly Evans

The chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said it “should be standard practice” for vehicles entering and leaving the prison to be checked and a prisoner has to earn a “certain level of trust” in order to be allowed to work in a kitchen.

Prisons have two sets of gates to go through to access what is known as the “sterile” area for vehicles entering or leaving.

Inmates are not allowed in those areas and there are “strict rules” on which gates can be opened and both sets of gates cannot be opened at the same time.

Standard security measures would include CCTV surveillance footage being fed back to a control room, but also mirrors on a roller to run underneath and on top of vehicles.

Wandsworth prison was 30 per cent short on staff in last report

Thursday 7 September 2023 16:07 , Holly Evans

Prisons chief inspector Charlie Taylor said HMP Wandsworth was 30% short of staff at its last inspection and that concerns had previously been raised about the prospect of an escape.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme that several warnings about the jail have been issued over a number of years.

“This is very concerning because Wandsworth had a previous escape in 2019 as well,” he said.

“Obviously any prisoner getting out of the jail is an extremely rare event. But particularly a prisoner who’s accused of a terrorist offence makes it all worse.”

He said concerns previously raised about Wandsworth “make it a jail that’s more likely” for escapes to happen.

“Particularly the lack of staffing which has dogged the prison,” he added.

“I think when we last inspected at the end of 2021, they were 30% short of staff.”

HMP Wandsworth had been ‘dogged’ by staff shortages  (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

HMP Wandsworth had been ‘dogged’ by staff shortages (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

Downing Street says Sunak has confidence in the justice secretary

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:50 , Holly Evans

Downing Street said the Prime Minister has confidence in the Justice Secretary over the handling of a prison escape and rejected blame for the incident being apportioned to cuts to the prison service.

Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman did however admit there was a need for more staff at the prison.

Wandsworth prison’s performance was rated as a “serious concern” and watchdogs had issued a string of warnings about the jail in the past year.

Meanwhile, the Government is facing growing calls to urgently honour its manifesto pledge of launching a royal commission to examine the criminal justice system in the wake of the incident.

Pharmacists urged to be alert for burn injuries

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:39 , Holly Evans

An former detective has warned pharmacists to be extra vigilant if someone asks them for advice on how to treat burn injuries today.

Peter Bleksley said the food delivery van Daniel Khalife was hiding under “certainly should have been stopped”.

He told Sky News: “These vehicles are searched thoroughly or should be on entry and exit from the prison, but clinging to the bottom of a vehicle if it’s got a petrol or diesel combustion engine is a pretty risky thing to do”.

He said that since exhaust systems “run the entire length of a vehicle like that”, the slightest touch will leave a “very unpleasant burn”.

Long queues of traffic form on the M20

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:37 , Holly Evans

Long queues have formed on the M20 as the hunt for Daniel Khalife leads to“enhanced port security checks” at Dover.

Part of the motorway has been shut as an “emergency measure”, according to Kent Police.

Security checks are being carried out at border crossings (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Security checks are being carried out at border crossings (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Long queues have formed along the M20 due to additional security measures (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Long queues have formed along the M20 due to additional security measures (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Man arrested in Banbury not Daniel Khalife, say Met Police

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:28 , Holly Evans

Following footage circulating on social media of a man who appears to look like Khalife being questioned by police at Banbury train station, the police confirmed it was not the suspected terrorist.

The force said: “We are aware of a man being stopped by police in the Banbury area earlier today.

“We have liaised with colleagues in Thames Valley and confirmed the man in question is not Daniel Khalife.”

Bidford says vehicle driver ‘fully cooperated with the police’

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:23 , William Mata

Food delivery service Bidford has said its driver “fully cooperated with the police” during a security incident.

Sky News reported this “incident” was that Daniel Khalife clung on to the bottom of one of its vehicles to make his escape from prison on Wednesday.

In a statement Bidfood said: “Yesterday morning we were made aware of a security incident involving one of our vehicles, whilst out on delivery.

“We can confirm that our driver fully cooperated with the police on this matter before returning back to the depot.

“We will continue to assist the authorities in their ongoing investigation.”

Union calls for royal commission after government’s manifesto pledge

Thursday 7 September 2023 15:05 , William Mata

The prison officers’ union has called for an “urgent” royal commission in the wake of the incident warning that, without one, problems are “just going to get worse”.

The Government is facing growing calls to urgently honour its manifesto pledge of carrying out a review of the “overwhelmed” criminal justice system after a prisoner escaped from HMP Wandsworth.

It comes after, earlier this year, watchdog Andrew Cayley KC – the chief inspector of the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) – urged ministers to stick to their promise of launching a royal commission, which was announced about four years ago in the wake of repeated claims that the justice system was “crumbling” and “on its knees”.

At the time, he warned the justice system was heading for “crisis”.

The royal commission pledged in the Conservative Party’s manifesto, and unveiled in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, promised to carry out a “fundamental review” in a bid to improve “efficiency and effectiveness”.

On Thursday, the union said: “The union wants an urgent royal commission not just for prisons but the whole criminal justice system otherwise issues are just going to get worse.”

Staff cuts have consequences, says union

Thursday 7 September 2023 14:56 , William Mata

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said “cuts have consequences” after the escape of Daniel Khalife.

“You cannot take out 900 million from the budget with reduced staffing levels up and down the country and expect the Prison Service to operate as if nothing has happened,” said the union leader.

“Government needs to take responsibility for the decimation of the Prison Service with less staff and more prisoners and Wandsworth is a typical example of what life is like for serving Prison Officers operating in a stressful and violent workplace with inadequate staff levels.”

‘Almost certain’ terror suspect who escaped from Wandsworth prison had inside help

Thursday 7 September 2023 14:46 , William Mata

A security official has said it is “almost certain” a terror suspect who escaped from a prison while strapped to the bottom of a food delivery truck had inside help to flee – Amy-Clare Martin reports.

A nationwide manhunt is underway after former soldier Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was wearing a chef’s uniform as he fled HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday morning.

Khalife was being held on remand after he was accused of planting fake bombs at a military base, and airports and ports have since been put on high alert over fears he will try to leave the country.

A security official told The Independent that all prison staff were being interviewed after the major security breach.

“All the indications are that this was an orchestrated job and not an opportunistic escape. It is almost certain that he had some inside help from the prison,” he said.

See Amy-Clare Martin’s full story here.

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

More prisons could see escapes ‘due to chronic staff shortages’

Thursday 7 September 2023 14:35 , William Mata

More prisons across the UK could be at risk of inmates escaping due to “chronic staff shortages”, an MP has warned following suspected terrorist Daniel Khalife’s jailbreak in London, Matt Mathers reports.

Mr Khalife escaped from the Category B Wandsworth prison on Wednesday, sparking a national search for his whereabouts, Rosena Allin-Khan, the MP for the area, told The Independent staffing conditions were likely to worsen unless the government “sorted out poor pay and conditions to improve staff retention.”

Ms Allin-Khan said that it was “just a matter of time” before mistakes occurred at Wandsworth, which she said was “frequently” understaffed.“ Prisons across the country are facing the same problems and, realistically, this could have happened at any one of them,” she said.

Former Belmarsh and Brixton prison governor says escape could have been an inside job

Thursday 7 September 2023 14:32 , William Mata

Daniel Khalife’s escape from HMP Wandsworth could have been an inside job, the former governor of Belmarsh and Brixton prisons has said.

John Podmore who governed the prisons, told the World at One Mr Khalife “should have been in Belmarsh” and that he “couldn’t understand” why he wasn’t.

And he said the decision to give Mr Khalife a job in the kitchen at HMP Wandsworth was “quite astonishing”.

Mr Podmore said: “The prison kitchen is a plum job. And it goes to the most reliable, allegedly reliable, trusted prisoners chosen by staff.

“And it is a very vulnerable area. It’s where we’ve seen vehicles keep coming, going in and out. goods coming in and out on a regular basis. It’s the kitchens usually close to the gate. So it’s a very vulnerable area. So you choose who goes there very, very carefully.”

Mr Podmore, who was previously an inspector of prisons, said of the prison system: “It certainly doesn’t protect the public because prisons at the moment are making people worse, they are not protecting the public.”

Staffing problems have ‘dogged’ HMP Wandsworth, says Chief Inspector

Thursday 7 September 2023 14:03 , William Mata

Charlie Taylor, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that concerns at HMP Wandsworth have been flagged over a number of years – saying lack of staff had “dogged” the prison.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “This is very concerning because Wandsworth had a previous escape in 2019 as well. Obviously any prisoner getting out of the jail is extremely rare event. But particularly a prisoner who’s accused of a terrorist offence makes it all worse.“

But to some extent, our concerns about Wandsworth over number of years make it a jail that’s more likely for this sort of thing to happen. Particularly the lack of staffing which has dogged the prison. I think when we last inspected at the end of 2021, they were 30 per cent short of staff.

He added: “It may be that things have improved since we last inspected the jail. But certainly it’s been an ongoing issue with the prison, particularly as it is such an overcrowded but also very busy prison.”

The category B reception and resettlement men’s prison opened in 1851 (PA Archive)

The category B reception and resettlement men’s prison opened in 1851 (PA Archive)

‘Certain’ that Khalife ‘had help from inside prison’ – security official tells Independent

Thursday 7 September 2023 13:42 , William Mata

All prison staff at HMP Wandsworth are being interviewed after Khalife was able to flee while strapped to the bottom of a food delivery truck.

A security official told The Independent: “All the indications are that this was an orchestrated job and not an opportunistic escape.

“It is almost certain that he had some inside help from the prison.”

It is understood that Khalife’s father is Iranian while his mother is English.

A former soldier who has close knowledge of the suspect’s time in the Army said he was not known to be religious or show a keen interest in politics.

“He wasn’t any trouble and was always seen as a decent guy.”

Units from the 16 Signals regiment are attached to elite frontline British Army regiments including special forces, parachute regiment, guerkhas and the royal marines.

Khalife would have had access to state of the art defence electrical equipment.

Wandsworth Prison: ‘Serious concern’ raised before escape

Thursday 7 September 2023 13:38 , William Mata

Wandsworth Prison’s performance was rated as a “serious concern” and a string of warnings had been issued about the jail in the past year before Daniel Khalife’s escape.

In the Annual Prison Performance Ratings for 2022/23, published in July, Wandsworth was among nine rated as a “serious concern” and chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor warned staff shortages are “the source of many problems”.

Its overall performance score, based on a range of measures including security, rehabilitation and training and expressed as a proportion of 100 per cent, was 46.4 per cent – one of the lowest out of all 119 prisons.

Wandsworth was handed the same “serious concern” rating in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.

While it is “concerning when anybody escapes from prison” and they are “now very rare”, the nature of the allegations levelled at Daniel Abed Khalife made this case “extremely concerning”, he added.

Wandsworth Prison (PA)

Wandsworth Prison (PA)

All we know about how suspected terrorist Daniel Abed Khalife escaped HMP Wandsworth

Thursday 7 September 2023 13:22 , William Mata

Daniel Abed Khalife, a former British Army soldier, is thought to have used makeshift straps to cling onto a food delivery van while wearing a chef’s uniform.

He escaped from the Category B prison on Wednesday morning.

He was awaiting trial for providing information about the British army to the enemy. As of Thursday morning, there has been no reported trace of his whereabouts.

Barney Davis has the full report here on all we know so far about his escape.

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

Daniel Abed Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday (PA Wire)

Starmer hits out at government’s record on changing justice secretaries

Thursday 7 September 2023 13:19 , William Mata

Sir Keir Starmer has hit out at the government’s chopping and changing cabinet for creating uncertainty within the ministry.

“It certainly hasn’t helped that in the last 10 years we’ve had 10 justice secretaries,” the Labour leader told Sky News.

“I know from my time as director of prosecutions just how important stability is when it comes to criminal justice.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA Wire)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA Wire)

Port of Dover continuing to advise passengers to take more time in crossing

Thursday 7 September 2023 13:14 , William Mata

The Port of Dover is continuing to advise passengers to take more time in crossing because of the “enhanced” checks.

The Brock Zero traffic management system is now in place – which means the M20 in Kent is closed between junctions 8 and 9.

Ports and airports across the UK have said that vigorous checks will be taking place as the search for Khalife continues.

Staff shortages ‘the source of many problems’ – chief inspector of prisons

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The chief inspector of prisons has warned staff shortages are “the source of many problems” at HMP Wandsworth, where a suspected terrorist soldier escaped undetected.

Charlie Taylor said it is “concerning when anybody escapes from prison” and they are “now very rare”. But the nature of the allegations levelled at Daniel Abed Khalife made this case “extremely concerning”, he added.

Mr Taylor said it “should be standard practice” for vehicles entering and leaving the prison to be checked and a prisoner has to earn a “certain level of trust” in order to be allowed to work in a kitchen.

He said: “Something obviously went wrong in terms of security, and that will come out over time.

“But the issue that we are particularly concerned about is there are too many prisoners in Wandsworth for the amount of staff who are there. And that ultimately is the source of many of the problems in the jail.

 (PA Images via Getty Images)

(PA Images via Getty Images)

Watch: ‘No stone can be left unturned,’ justice secretary says amid manhunt

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:33 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Justice secretary Alex Chalk told MPs today that Daniel Khalife “will be found and will be made to face justice”.

Labour MP: Why was Daniel Khalife trusted to work in the kitchen?

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Conservative MP Mark Fletcher asked whether the justice secretary was considering if Daniel Khalife had assistance with his escape.

Mr Fletcher said: “The presence of strapping on the underside of the vehicle would seem to indicate that there may have been some planning involved in this.

“In regards to protocols and staffing arrangements, are there any implications that he may have had some assistance in this particular escape?”

Justice secretary Alex Chalk said the idea had also occurred to him and colleagues and officials.

“All lines of inquiry being considered,” Mr Chalk said.

Urgent reviews announced after ‘strapping’ found underneath delivery van

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:17 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Justice secretary Alex Chalk told MPs that two urgent reviews would also take place regarding the categorisation and placement of all HMP Wandsworth prisoners and all those in custody charged with terrorism offences.

Mr Chalk said that “strapping” was found underneath a delivery vehicle which he added may indicate Khalife held on to the underside of it in order to escape.

There are fears the fugitive – who has been missing since 8am on Wednesday – might try to flee the country.

Detailing what he knew of Khalife’s escape, Mr Chalk told MPs: “At approximately 7.30 yesterday morning, a vehicle which had made a delivery to the prison’s kitchen left HMP Wandsworth.

“Shortly afterwards, local contingency plans for an unaccounted prisoner were activated and in line with standard procedure the police were informed.

“The prison was put into a state of lockdown while staff attempted to determine Daniel Khalife’s whereabouts.

“The vehicle was stopped and searched by police after the alert was raised.

“Strapping was found underneath the vehicle which appeared to indicate Daniel Khalife may have held onto the underside of it in order to escape.”

Mr Chalk ended his statement by saying: “Daniel Khalife will be found and will be made to face justice.”

Starmer says there is ‘a lot to look at’ after prisoner escaped Wandsworth

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:14 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters said that there was a “lot to look at” regarding how a prisoner could escape in this way.

“I think we need to have an independent insight into what went wrong. I think everybody will want to know why some of the reports of failings in Wandsworth were not acted upon more quickly. I think we may well find, as we have found in other sectors, there is a pattern of behaviour that isn’t just confined to Wandsworth.

He said that the “chopping and changing” of secretaries of state had produced “instability and inconsistency”.

“Decisions that should be made are not made in the way they should.

“There is a lot to look at here.”

Khalife was never in Belmarsh prison, justice secretary confirms

Thursday 7 September 2023 12:08 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Daniel Khalife was never in Belmarsh prison, Alex Chalk has confirmed in response to a question from shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood.

Ms Mahmood, who was handed the justice brief in this week’s Labour reshuffle, said: “Why was a suspected terror offender held at a Category B jail whilst on remand despite many other suspected and indeed convicted terrorists being held in the high security estate?

“Why was Daniel Khalife moved from Belmarsh to Wandsworth?”

Mr Chalk said the question was “factually incorrect”.

“He was never in Belmarsh,” Mr Chalk said.

All we know about HMP Wandsworth as terror suspect Daniel Khalife escapes ‘by clinging to food delivery van’

Thursday 7 September 2023 11:53 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

HMP Wandsworth has found itself under the spotlight after a national manhunt was launched for an escaped terror suspect.

Daniel Abed Khalife, a 21-year-old soldier with the Royal Corps of Signals was being held on remand at the Category B prison after he was accused of planting fake bombs at a military base in the West Midlands, and other charges relating to the Official Secrets Act.

Security was tightened at airports and other international departure points on Wednesday, after Khalife – who worked in the prison’s kitchen – outwitted the guards as he fled the south London jail in his cook’s uniform at 7.50am.

All we know about ‘vermin infested’ Wandsworth prison as terror suspect escapes

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