Does this CCTV show terror suspect Daniel Khalife escaping HMP Wandsworth? Police issue footage from when 'resourceful loner' ex-soldier is thought to be under delivery van – officers warn 21-year-old 'Iran spy' may ALREADY have left UK

  • Post category:news
  • Reading time:29 min(s) read

  • The Met Police did not find anything inside except for a pair of straps
  • He strapped himself to the underside of a van before it left HMP Wandsworth 
  • The Met said more than 150 officers and staff are looking for him 

New CCTV footage shows that food delivery truck that reportedly carried terror suspect Daniel Khalife from HMP Wandsworth shortly after his audacious escape. 

The Bidfood delivery truck that Khalife, 21, strapped himself to was seen making its way down a busy road in southwest London on Wednesday. 

The new footage doesn’t appear to show any signs of interference by the former soldier, though a picture shared by the Met Police appears to show a small strap hanging near the back of the lorry. 

BidFood delivery since has confirmed one of its lorries had been used in the escape. 

The new footage comes as police have warned that the ‘Call of Duty obsessed loner’ may have already left the country. 

The Bidfood delivery truck that Khalife, 21, strapped himself to was seen making its way down a busy road in southwest London on Wednesday

The Bidfood delivery truck that Khalife, 21, strapped himself to was seen making its way down a busy road in southwest London on Wednesday

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Khalife held on to the underside of the truck with straps, which were found by police after they had stopped the vehicle

Khalife held on to the underside of the truck with straps, which were found by police after they had stopped the vehicle

Officers using sniffer dogs spent two hours combing through the vehicle and looking underneath it

Officers using sniffer dogs spent two hours combing through the vehicle and looking underneath it

An onlooker, who took these dramatic videos, told MailOnline this evening: 'The police pulled up behind the van after ordering it to stop

An onlooker, who took these dramatic videos, told MailOnline this evening: ‘The police pulled up behind the van after ordering it to stop

Them Met Police admitted that Khalife's 'previous military experience' may make him harder to catch, as he is likely 'more aware of efforts to apprehend him.'

Them Met Police admitted that Khalife’s ‘previous military experience’ may make him harder to catch, as he is likely ‘more aware of efforts to apprehend him.’

Daniel Khalife (pictured), a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial

Daniel Khalife (pictured), a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial

Colleagues of Khalife described him today as 'jovial, a bit dopey and playful'

Colleagues of Khalife described him today as ‘jovial, a bit dopey and playful’

READ MORE: Manhunt for terror suspect enters day two

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In a statement the company 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.’

The new footage comes hours after MailOnline shared a video of police stopping the delivery van that terror suspect Daniel Khalife clung to during his audacious escape from Wandsworth Prison.

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning.

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Khalife – who had been working in the prison kitchen and was wearing chef’s red and white cheque trousers with a white T-shirt – sneaked under the vehicle, which was delivering food and groceries.

He held on to the underside of the truck with straps, which were found by police after they had stopped the vehicle.

Khalife, however, was already long gone.

The van was roughly two and a half miles from Wandsworth Prison when it was stopped.

Officers using sniffer dogs spent two hours combing through the vehicle and looking underneath it.

An onlooker, who took these dramatic videos, told MailOnline this evening: ‘The police pulled up behind the van after ordering it to stop.

‘They spent a few hours looking all the way through it, in the back, in the driver’s cab, underneath it and even on top of it.

‘They had sniffer dogs trying to pick up the scent of something, but they didn’t find anything of any note.

‘I didn’t know what was going on. It’s only tonight that I’ve found out this was the truck used by the escaped prisoner. It’s quite shocking.’

The video comes as the Metropolitan Police has revealed the exact route escape terror suspect and former soldier Daniel Khalife took as he clung to the underside of a food van when he escaped HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday. 

The force also admitted that the more than 150 cops charged with finding the escaped suspect, 21, have still not found him.

Khalife has been described as a ‘very resourceful individual’, with the Met’s head of the Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism command, commander Dominic Murphy, adding: ‘Our experience of him shows that, so nothing is off the table with him at the moment.

‘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.

‘It’s important that we remember that we have some of the best military in the world here in the UK and he was trained.

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

Former army friends have also described him as a loner who was obsessed with the ‘Call of Duty’ video game. 

A former soldier who was friends with him while they were cadets in Dorset told the Sun: ‘He was the first person in his family to sign up to the Army.

‘He was a bit of a loner, he was a big gamer – loved Call of Duty.

‘He was very quiet and studied a lot, the top of the class in the troop, but was also known for being a bit of a drunk and aggressive.

‘Khalife described his role on social media as being a computer specialist with skills including information technology and system administration.’

Khalife, a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment who was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial, was meant to be working in the kitchens when he sneaked out and strapped himself underneath a Bidfood truck that delivered food and supplies on Wednesday.

Dressed as a chef, the soldier-turned-alleged-spy served fellow 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. 

Dressed as a chef, the soldier-turned-alleged-spy served fellow inmates breakfast and then evaded guards and CCTV while the vehicle was driven for 250 yards along an internal road

Dressed as a chef, the soldier-turned-alleged-spy served fellow inmates breakfast and then evaded guards and CCTV while the vehicle was driven for 250 yards along an internal road

The van left the Category-B prison at around 7:30 am, taking a right turn out of the gates onto Heathfield Road

The van left the Category-B prison at around 7:30 am, taking a right turn out of the gates onto Heathfield Road

This is the route the van took after it left HMP Wandsworth

This is the route the van took after it left HMP Wandsworth 

The Met has revealed that Khalife strapped himself to the undercarriage of a Bidfood truck that was delivering supplies to HMP Wandsworth

The Met has revealed that Khalife strapped himself to the undercarriage of a Bidfood truck that was delivering supplies to HMP Wandsworth 

MailOnline understands he slipped out of a kitchen door into this area close to C Block in the jail but nobody noticed he was gone

MailOnline understands he slipped out of a kitchen door into this area close to C Block in the jail but nobody noticed he was gone

Prison guards walk around a van at the gates of HM Prison Wandsworth with mirrors to check it. Experts say this can't have been done properly when the fugitive escaped

Prison guards walk around a van at the gates of HM Prison Wandsworth with mirrors to check it. Experts say this can’t have been done properly when the fugitive escaped 

A police helicopter has been circling Richmond Park on the second night of the Met's manhunt for Khalife

A police helicopter has been circling Richmond Park on the second night of the Met’s manhunt for Khalife

A second helicopter has also been seen over Wimbledon Common as well

A second helicopter has also been seen over Wimbledon Common as well

Escape of spy suspect is most serious since IRA breakout in 1994  and fifth since 2017

The escape of Daniel Abed Khalife is the most serious for almost 30 years.

The last major one was from the special secure unit at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire in September 1994, organised by the IRA. 

Five of the six men were serving sentences for IRA activities.

In the jailbreak, two wire fences had been cut through for the prisoners, who are believed to have recruited a prison officer to help them, and they made a rope ladder in the prison workshop to help them over two perimeter walls.

One suspect was stopped before he got outside the prison complex but the other five men got beyond the outer wall and were caught as they tried to follow a disused railway line in the dark.

The breakout was foiled by the courage of unarmed guards who chased and overcame the inmates, despite several shots being fired.

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The van left the Category-B prison at around 7:30 am, taking a right turn out of the gates onto Heathfield Road. 

He was declared missing at 7:50 am, and the Met was notified at 8:15.  

The food van then turned left onto Magdalen Road, before it turned left onto Trinity Road (A214) up to the Wandsworth Roundabout and took the first exit onto Swandon Way (A217).

The food van then turned left onto Old York Road, past Wandsworth Town station, then left onto Fairfield Street, right onto Wandsworth High Street (A3) staying straight ahead onto West Hill and then on to Upper Richmond Road (A205).

It is not known exactly where the van went after this, or where Khalife may have left the vehicle.  

The Met says its investigation into his disappearance is focused on London, particularly around this route, as well as the Kingston-Upon-Thames area, where Khalife was known to have connections.

Police helicopter revealed that on the second night of the Met’s search for Khalife, a police chopper has been circling Richmond Park, close to the flat he grew up in. 

A second helicopter has also been seen over Wimbledon Common. 

It said that it feared that Khalife has already left the country, with Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s counterterrorism control saying: ‘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.’

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.’

HMP Wandsworth has been severely criticised for its conditions, with top-level figures claiming the prison needs to be shut down. 

The UK’s chief inspector of prisons, Charlie Taylor, outright said that HMP Wandsworth needs to be shut down. 

He told Sky News: ‘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.’  

The Victorian jail in the southwest of the city has been described in a recent report as ‘overcrowded, crumbling and vermin-infested.’

Both Mr Taylor and the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) raised concerns about staffing levels, among other issues, in reports published last year.

In findings published in January 2022 after an inspection in September 2021, Mr Taylor warned: ‘Staffing shortfalls were preventing the prison from running a decent and predictable regime. More than 30% of prison officers were either absent or unable to work their full duties. Around a quarter were less than a year in post and more than 10% had resigned in the last 12 months.’

The report also highlighted how a ‘serious security breach had led to an escape in 2019’ and while the watchdog was ‘given some assurance that action to prevent further escapes had been taken in response to the investigation that followed’, it warned that ‘current local security data evidenced some concerns in the physical aspects of security.’

At the time Mr Taylor also told how the prison did not have enough body-worn cameras for every staff member on duty and highlighted how there had recently been several changes in leadership.

Inspectors described ‘very poor’ living conditions with ‘piles of litter’ and said levels of violence had risen since previous inspections.

On Thursday Mr Taylor said of the ‘completely overcrowded’ and vermin-infested site that his last inspection showed Wandsworth had high numbers of ‘non-effective’ staff – which means they are off work for reasons including sickness and training.

Khalife, 21, was on remand at HMP Wandsworth (pictured) awaiting trial in relation to terrorism and Official Secrets Act offences

Offences allegedly committed by Khalife 

August 2021: Attempting to ‘elicit information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’ at RAF Stafford

January 2023: Placing an article ‘with the intention of inducing in another a belief that the said article was likely to explode or ignite and cause personal injury or damage to property’ at RAF Stafford

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‘It was definitely one of the worst (prisons) we’d come across and they had real problems in having enough staff in place and of course, that immediately is a big issue for the prison because it means that all the systems in the prison are put under strain as a result of it.

‘What a prison should do is prioritise security over everything else, because that’s its predominant function, but if you have got very big shortages of staff that inevitably is going to be an issue,’ he said.

Wandsworth has one of the highest rate of sickness absence among staff, official Government figures show.

The average number of working days lost due to sickness absence at Wandsworth per full-time equivalent staff was 20.4 in the 12 months to June 30 2023, compared with 19.5 in the year to March 2022 and 13.6 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

The Prison Officers Association has blamed budget cuts for the escape.

How many other prisoners have escaped HMP Wandsworth and what is the jail like?

In 1965, Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs escaped with three others by scaling HMP Wandsworth’s 30-ft perimeter wall after they were allowed out to exercise.

Prison guards, obstructed by other inmates who were still exercising, watched on helplessly during the daring prison break.

Biggs went on to be a fugitive for 36 years, living in Australia and Brazil before flying back to the UK in 2001 and being put behind bars again.

In 2003, Eamon Donaghue ditched his prison clothes for a prison officer’s uniform he found while cleaning the officers’ mess hall. 

Fraudster Neil Moore was on remand in the Category B prison when he managed to get out in 2015 by posting a letter to wardens pretending it was from the court service. 

He told clueless wardens that he had been granted bail, and was free to walk out. 

He later had a ‘change of heart’ and surrendered himself after ‘three or four days.’

And most recently, in 2019, a prisoner was wrongly released by Wandsworth staff just six days into a six-week sentence. 

Wandsworth has seen at least six inmates break out over the years - including Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs

Wandsworth has seen at least six inmates break out over the years – including Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs

HMP Wandsworth, a Category B prison in southwest London, is one of the UK’s largest. 

It was built in 1851 as the ‘Surrey House of Correction.’

In 2022, its wardens were heavily criticised in a damning report that claimed the prison was plagued by overcrowding and violence. 

The report noted that prisoners were left in ‘very poor conditions’ surrounded by ‘piles of litter’ in ‘dirty, graffiti covered cells.’

Until as recently as 1996, inmates were forced to clean up their own excrement every morning in a process call ‘slopping out.’

Notable current and former inmates include:

  • German tennis star Boris Becker 
  • Boxer and artist Charles Bronson 
  • David Chaytor, the first MP to be convicted for his role in the parliamentary expenses scandal 
  • Drill artist Digga D
  • Paedophiles Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris
  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
  • Gangster Ronnie Kray 
  • Great Train Robbery culprit Ronnie Biggs 
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Chairman Mark Fairhurst said: ‘Wandsworth is one of the largest prisons in the country and is overcrowded and under resourced.

‘The chronic staffing shortages and lack of adequate training for staff highlight the need for an urgent review of how our prisons are run.’

Prison Officers Association Steve Gillian told Times Radio that Wandsworth has too few perimeter checks because of cutbacks. 

He said: ‘I sort of think there’s not enough security like perimeter checks and things like that are being cut back. Different things. The day to day security. People aren’t getting enough time to do the security task that they should be doing.

‘So, for example, the security of a prison is foremost in my mind, always has been. But getting the time to do the basics, such as like a cell fabric check, right. For instance, I’ve noticed that sometimes prison officers will rush it because there’s not enough time in the day.

‘A fabric check would be checking the locks, the bolts, the bars, the fabric of the cell to ensure it’s not tampered with and so forth.’

He added: ‘It’s been that way for a substantial amount of time, not just at Wandsworth but across the country. So Wandsworth yesterday, it could be another prison tomorrow, unfortunately. 

‘And your stats are pretty sound. Actual fact, because I spoke to the Wandsworth Play Committee this morning just to see how many staff were on duty. And you’re absolutely right, 1600 prisoners.

‘And this is supposed to be a certified normal accommodation of just over 900, which means that’s the proper amount of prisoners that should be at once with. 

‘But they are grossly overcrowded by 600 prisoners that are sharing cells, doubling up for cells that should be for one person and to have 70 staff on duty for 1600 prisoners. 

‘Just demonstrates to your listeners the sort of stress that my members are under on a daily basis.’ 

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.

The force admitted that Khalife’s ‘previous military experience’ may make him harder to catch, as he is likely ‘more aware of efforts to apprehend him.’ 

Commander Dominic Murphy, who leads the investigation, asked for anyone with information about Khalife that may help us to get in touch urgently.

He said: ‘Since yesterday, over 150 officers and staff have been working around the clock on apprehending Khalife.

‘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.

‘I recognise and am fully aware of the impact these measures are having on the public. We are working to ensure as minimal disruption as possible.

‘It is crucial for the public to help us with this search and to call us immediately if they have any information on the whereabouts of Khalife.’

The fugitive, described as being of slim build, with short brown hair and 6ft 2ins tall, and was said to be wearing a white T-shirt, distinctive red and white chequered trousers and brown steel-toe boots, though the Met Police said that the public should not focus on his clothing. 

Murphy said at a briefing: ‘He clearly could very quickly change those clothes, so I wouldn’t want to focus too much on that.’

Experts have weighed in on exactly how Khalife may have escaped.  

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.

On Thursday, new photos of the terror suspect emerged, showing him as a cadet at training barracks. 

One picture, of him shirtless, was taken at Pirbright Barracks in Surrey, where he underwent phase one training in 2019. 

Another image, in which he is wearing a beret, was taken at Blandford Garrison in Dorset during his phase two training the following year.

Colleagues of Khalife described him today as ‘jovial, a bit dopey and playful’.

But despite these positive comments, he was accused of incredibly serious crimes. 

He 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 Iran.

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.

A former security minister said that the audacious escape will likely ‘count against him’ if he’s caught. 

Baroness Neville-Jones, chair of the UK’s joint intelligence committee, told Sky News the suspected terrorist ‘has to be found’.

She added: ‘This will count against him without question.’

UK justice officials have been scrutinised for the decision not to place Khalife in a prison with higher levels of security.  

Experts have said he should have been in Category A Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, which holds the majority of the UK’s terror suspects and has never had an escape. 

Most terror suspects are held at HMP Belmarsh - a notorious category-A prison no one has ever escaped from

Most terror suspects are held at HMP Belmarsh – a notorious category-A prison no one has ever escaped from

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 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’.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told MPs today (pictured) 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

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told MPs today (pictured) 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

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.’

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the A20 in Kent as security checks are being carried out amid an ongoing effort to track down an escaped terrorism suspect, Daniel Abed Khalife

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the A20 in Kent as security checks are being carried out amid an ongoing effort to track down an escaped terrorism suspect, Daniel Abed Khalife

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the M20 near Ashford in Kent as security checks are being carried out

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the M20 near Ashford in Kent as security checks are being carried out

Huge queues snake through the Kent countryside

Huge queues snake through the Kent countryside

Activity at transport hubs across the UK slowed to a near-halt last night as forces investigated whether Khalife had managed to sneak out of the country. 

The M20 was closed as a result of the checks, sparking huge queues of trucks around Dover, while there were also delays at airports. 

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.

Wandsworth prison’s performance was rated a ‘serious concern’ before Khalife escaped 

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 before a former soldier accused of terrorism escaped undetected.

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 around 1,600 defendants appearing at London courts and offenders due to be released in five wings.

The chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor warned staff shortages are ‘the source of many problems’ at HMP Wandsworth.

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.

The 21-year-old is believed to have escaped by strapping himself onto the bottom of a delivery van after leaving the prison kitchen in a cook’s uniform.

Speaking to the PA news agency, 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.

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.

Mr Taylor 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.’

In the Annual Prison Performance Ratings for 2022/23, published in July, Wandsworth was among nine rated as a ‘serious concern’.

Its overall performance score, based on a range of measures including security, rehabilitation and training and expressed as a proportion of 100%, was 46.4% – 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.

Both Mr Taylor and the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) raised concerns about staffing levels, among other issues, in reports published last year.

In findings published in January 2022 after an inspection in September 2021, Mr Taylor warned: ‘Staffing shortfalls were preventing the prison from running a decent and predictable regime. More than 30% of prison officers were either absent or unable to work their full duties. Around a quarter were less than a year in post and more than 10% had resigned in the last 12 months.’

The report also highlighted how a ‘serious security breach had led to an escape in 2019’ and while the watchdog was ‘given some assurance that action to prevent further escapes had been taken in response to the investigation that followed’, it warned that ‘current local security data evidenced some concerns in the physical aspects of security.’

At the time Mr Taylor also told how the prison did not have enough body-worn cameras for every staff member on duty and highlighted how there had recently been several changes in leadership.

Inspectors described ‘very poor’ living conditions with ‘piles of litter’ and said levels of violence had risen since previous inspections.

On Thursday Mr Taylor said of the ‘completely overcrowded’ and vermin-infested site that his last inspection showed Wandsworth had high numbers of ‘non-effective’ staff – which means they are off work for reasons including sickness and training.

‘It was definitely one of the worst (prisons) we’d come across and they had real problems in having enough staff in place and of course, that immediately is a big issue for the prison because it means that all the systems in the prison are put under strain as a result of it.

‘What a prison should do is prioritise security over everything else, because that’s its predominant function, but if you have got very big shortages of staff that inevitably is going to be an issue,’ he said.

Wandsworth has one of the highest rate of sickness absence among staff, official Government figures show.

The average number of working days lost due to sickness absence at Wandsworth per full-time equivalent staff was 20.4 in the 12 months to June 30 2023, compared with 19.5 in the year to March 2022 and 13.6 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

Only Garth (23.4), in Lancashire, and Liverpool (20.9) had higher rates for the workforce at adult prisons in England and Wales in the year to June.

The highest rate overall, of 24.3, was recorded among staff at Werrington young offender institution in Staffordshire.

The average across the prison service was 12.7.

PA understands from sources at Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Congress (TUC) that concerns have been raised about serious mismanagement at the prison and that on some days only about 30 prison officers are on shift, despite 120 being employed, due to long-term sickness and other absences.

Prison officers’ union general secretary Steve Gillan said: ‘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, caring for over 1,600 prisoners at that establishment.’

The prison’s IMB said a ‘staffing crisis’ and ‘crumbling’ Victorian buildings were ‘at the heart’ of its problems.

In findings published in September 2022 the body, made up of volunteers tasked by ministers to scrutinise conditions in custody, highlighted the ‘negative impact’ of staff shortages and ‘wholly inadequate physical conditions’.

The IMB said: ‘Significant staffing problems are adversely affecting the delivery of a consistent regime.’

The ‘recruitment, training and retention’ of skilled and well-motivated staff is ‘essential’ amid a rise in ‘volatile young prisoners’ and ‘alarming’ levels of violence but the board said it was ‘very concerned that this is not happening’.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures show there were eight prisoner escapes in England and Wales in the 12 months to March 2023, none of whom remained still at large 30 days after escape. This is down from 12 escapes in the year to March 2022, two of whom remained still at large 30 days after escape.

Of the eight escapes in 2022/23, one was from an establishment (HMP Bedford) and the other seven were from contractor escorts.

The person who escaped from HMP Bedford was not a Category A prisoner and was caught within 30 days.

Absconds – defined as escapes from open prisons – are recorded separately.




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