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Scott Johnson Escaped alleged Iranian spy Daniel Abed Khalife sailed through the grounds of Wandsworth Prison after guards failed to properly check below the van he was clinging to at three separate security gates, MailOnline can reveal today.Khalife, who was on remand ahead of his six-week terror trial, was meant to be working in the kitchens when he sneaked out and strapped himself underneath a truck that delivered food and supplies yesterday.
Dressed as a chef, the former Royal Signals soldier served inmates breakfast and then evaded guards and CCTV while the vehicle was driven for 250 yards along an internal road and out through HMP Wandsworth’s famous Victorian gate in a matter of minutes.Khalife is believed to have slipped out of one several doors to the kitchen having said he was unloading a supplies van – and never came back, one insider told MailOnline. He went unnoticed for around 20 minutes before the alarm was raised at 7.50am yesterday. Police released a public appeal seven hours later at 4pm and there are growing fears he could already be abroad.
Insiders have said that the lorry should have been checked with hand-held mirror One source told The Times: ‘If that had happened they would have found him. There will be a huge inquest over this.’Chris Atkins, author and former Wandsworth inmate, described the jail as ‘dysfunctional on an epic scale’. His book Time After Time is out today and serialised by the Mail on Sunday, as was his first book A Bit of a Stretch. He told MailOnline that he understands that the gates at Wandsworth are manned by civilian staff rather than prison officers because it is ‘cheaper’.
He said: ‘He shouldn’t have been given a trusted job like that but it was pure chaos being run by school leavers. So all rules often went out the window’.
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His book Time After Time is out today and serialised by the Mail on Sunday, as was his first book A Bit of a Stretch.He said the jail is run by ‘terrified’ young officers ‘straight out of school’ with just nine weeks of training who would rely on experienced prisoners like him with basic questions about how to police inmates and what their routine was, even what time they had lunch.He said: ‘They were so short staffed they asked me to do the register and tick people off as they left the wing. I was a prisoner in jail for a crime of dishonesty yet they allowed me this very very responsible role.’I could have ticked a box saying ‘yes a prisoner is here’ when he was half way to France’.
Ian Acheson, ex head of security at Wandsworth Prison, said today: ‘It is quite staggering all those systems of human and physical security failed to allow this prisoner to escape’.The lorry driver is said to have had no idea there was someone under his truck in what one former senior police officer has called ‘a catastrophic failing of prison security’.In recent months Khalife had been working as a porter in the prison kitchens and turned up for duty yesterday morning dressed in his chef’s uniform of a white T-shirt, distinctive red and white chequered trousers and brown steel-toe boots.The van driver is not believed to have known Khalife. Ex-Met Police commander John O’Connor told The Sun: ‘This sounds like something which could have happened at Colditz rather than a modern prison.
‘It makes the prison service look like a laughing stock. It’s ridiculous he managed to escape so easily with such an old-fashioned ploy. Escaping by clinging to a van is the sort of thing you see in old World War Two films.’His disappearance from the south-west London prison went unnoticed for some minutes before the alarm was raised at 7.50am. But an appeal by the Metropolitan Police was only made public at 4pm – seven hours later.Former Metropolitan Police Detective, Peter Bleksley, said: ‘If this is pre-planned and he is supported by a network of fellow minded criminals then of course he could have cash, shelter, change of clothing, false passport and may already have left the country’.
Mr Bleksley said police will hope he is working alone, because it increases the chances of being spotted and arrested because he would probably have to steal clothing, break into buildings to hide or hunt through bins for food.There are serious questions about why 21-year-old Khalife, a soldier accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act and spying for a hostile foreign state, had been placed in a Category B prison as he had been denied bail because he was considered a flight risk.
Experts have said he should have been in Category A Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, which holds the majority of terror suspect and has never had an escape. He was set to appear for trial on November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court, which is next door to Belmarsh, but instead was placed in Wandsworth 14 miles away.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told the Commons today that an independent investigation will take place into the escape, including why he was not put in a Category A jail when a known flight risk. Mr Chalk wants all other prisoners reviewed in case they should be moved in case of more escape attempts.He said today: At approximately 7.30am 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.’He said that the vehicle the suspecy was hiding under was ‘stopped and searched’ by police after the alarm was raised – but he was gone.Strapping was found underneath a vehicle which appeared to indicate that Daniel Khalife may have held onto the underside of it in order to escape. The search is underway’, he said.There was chaos at airports and ports, leading to delays for passengers, as Border Force officials carried out extra security checks in a race to find the fugitive amid fears he may be planning to flee the country – if he hasn’t already.
The hunt continues to cause delays at the Port of Dover where enhanced security checks are taking place. The Dover TAP traffic management system has been enforced on the A20, with lorries queueing in the left-hand lane.The Port of Dover tweeted this morning: ‘Due to a police matter there are currently enhanced checks on outbound traffic.’Please be advised this is currently resulting in some delays at the port.’However, our standard travel guidance remains unchanged and we will keep passengers updated if they can expect any alteration to their journey.’
Airports also remain on high alert. During a previous hearing, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Khalife had been AWOL for around three weeks after an alleged bomb hoax in January.After that court appearance, Khalife was denied bail.The ex-serviceman, formally based at Beacon barracks in Stafford, was charged in January with breaching the Official Secrets Act by allegedly committing ‘an act prejudicial to the safety or interests’ of Britain in a plot said to be linked to a hostile nation.British-born but said to have Middle Eastern heritage from his mother and father, Khalife was said to have gathered details that ‘could be useful to an enemy’ between May 2019 and January 2022.
He was also charged with eliciting information about members of the Armed Forces useful for terrorism, by recording personal details from the Ministry of Defence joint personnel administration system on August 2, 2021. Khalife was arrested after allegedly planting fake bombs – three canisters with wires – on a desk in his barracks accommodation on January 2 this year.The soldier was discharged from the Army when he faced criminal accusations of perpetrating a bomb hoax ‘with the intention of inducing a belief in another that the said items were likely to explode or ignite’.Since his arrest, judges have refused to grant the terror suspect bail ahead of his trial at Woolwich Crown Court on November 20. Khalife was last seen in public at the Old Bailey in July when he denied all three charges.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk last night demanded an urgent update from Wandsworth’s governor and senior Prison Service bosses after the jail was placed in lockdown.Sources said the minister received a run-through of ‘all security measures that have been taken in the medium term to ensure the prison is secure as possible’.There will be further longer-term work on improving Wandsworth’s security checks, a source added.Labour justice spokesman Shabana Mahmood said: ‘The Conservatives need to urgently explain how they can’t do the basic job of keeping potentially dangerous criminals locked up.’It’s right that the police are given space to recapture this suspect. But Rishi Sunak needs to ensure there is no wider risk because his zombie Government lacks grip on the criminal justice system.’Last night helicopters and plain-clothes officers swooped on a residential area of Kingston, south-west London, where Khalife’s family is known to have had connections.
Officers were said to be keeping a close watch on an upstairs flat in Kingston, close to the edge of Richmond Park, where Khalife’s mother and twin sister are understood to have lived until a few years ago.A neighbour told The Daily Telegraph: ‘A woman lived upstairs who had a son and daughter. The boy would come and go swearing loudly. She moved to Wales roughly three years ago – a year after we moved in.’The family were British, of Middle Eastern origin. They didn’t talk to us or anyone else in the street very much that I could see.’It’s worrying to think that this young man might head back to this area after escaping from prison.’Police believe the fugitive may still be hiding out in London, but due to the serious nature of the charges against him, security alerts were issued to all ports and airports.Security queues at Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester airports slowed down as officials checked the ID of every person planning to catch a flight.Passengers took to social media to complain, with those at Glasgow Airport reporting that the queue was closed for more than an hour.
One man tweeted on X: ‘Queue didn’t move for an hour. Missed flight to Southampton. Still not through security.’Passengers at Manchester Airport faced delays of about 30 minutes at security while hold-ups were also reported at the Port of Dover.The escape had an additional knock-on effect of disrupting court hearings for other defendants on remand at the south London prison yesterday.Murder suspect Earl Morin-Britton, 36, from Sutton, south London, missed his first appearance at the Old Bailey by video link due to the lockdown.Last night police appealed for help in tracing the fugitive, described as being of slim build, with short brown hair and 6ft 2ins tall. Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter-terrorism Command, said: ‘We have a team of officers who are making extensive and urgent enquiries in order to locate and detain Khalife as quickly as possible.
‘However, the public can help us as well and should anyone see Khalife, or have any information as to where he might be, then please call 999 immediately. We have no information which indicates, nor any reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the wider public.’Khalife has links to north-west England and Kingston in London, but Mr Murphy said the hunt was covering the whole of the UK. The Prison Service said: ‘We are working with the Metropolitan Police to recapture this prisoner and are urgently investigating how he escaped.’It is not the first time an inmate has broken out of Wandsworth. In 1965, Ronnie Biggs famously escaped from the prison where he was serving a 30-year sentence for his part in the Great Train Robbery.Around 1,300 convicts are in Wandsworth, with other former inmates including tennis legend Boris Becker, who was jailed for fraud before being released last December.
“Chintzia McIntyre, 48, had been seriously assaulted and was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.”