Terror-accused former soldier 'escapes prison in chef uniform clinging to delivery van'

'Every police force in the country' is involved in an 'urgent' hunt for Daniel Abed Khalife who went missing from Wandsworth Prison this morning, as Rohit Kachroo reports

A 21-year-old terror suspect is on the run after donning a chef's outfit and escaping by clinging to the bottom of a delivery van.

Police have issued an urgent appeal to the public to help trace Daniel Abed Khalife after he escaped from HMP Wandsworth, a category B prison, shortly before 8am on Wednesday.

The former British Army soldier was being held awaiting trial for a terror offence, bomb hoax and an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act.

He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel-toe-cap boots, the Metropolitan Police said. He is of slim build and 6ft 2in with short brown hair.

He is thought to have snuck out of the kitchen and clung onto the bottom of a delivery van to make his escape.

The jail was put on lockdown after he fled.

Khalife’s escape sparked a major police hunt with ports and airports placed on alert and some passengers facing delays as extra checks were carried out.

The ex-serviceman was formerly based at Beacon Barracks - when he is alleged to have committed the offences.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed Khalife was discharged from the Army in May 2023.

A spokesperson said: “As a result of being held on remand for these charges, Daniel Khalife was discharged from the Army on 22 May 2023.”

He appeared at the Old Bailey in late July where he denied the charges he is facing.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston analyses the political fallout from Khalife's escape

It is claimed that he placed “three canisters with wires on a desk in his accommodation” with the intention of inducing in another a belief this was “likely to explode or ignite and thereby cause personal injury or damage to property”.

A trial date has been set for November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court.

The ex-serviceman, formerly of Beacon Barracks, Beaconside, Stafford, is also accused of a criminal offence relating to the alleged bomb hoax.

UK borders and ports are on high alert following a notification from the Counter Terrorism Command earlier today related to the escaped prisoner.

The public has been advised not to approach Khalife, but if seen they should call 999 immediately.

Newly-appointed Shadow Justice Secretary 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 a grip on the criminal justice system.”

Khalife was on remand at HMP Wandsworth, awaiting trial in relation to terrorism, when he escaped. Credit: PA

Commander Dominic Murphy, the head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said the team is making "extensive and urgent enquiries" to locate and detain Khalife "as quickly as possible".

He added: "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 or the immediately.

“I also want to reassure the public that we have no information which indicates, nor any reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the wider public, but our advice if you do see him is not to approach him and call 999 straight away.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has held an urgent call with the prison governor and senior staff in the prison service to seek assurances about what is being done to ensure the jail is secure.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are working with the Metropolitan Police to recapture this prisoner and are urgently investigating how he escaped.”

Rishi Sunak needs to “get a grip” on the criminal justice system, Labour has said.

Ms Shabana told broadcasters: “I think the government has very serious questions to answer.

"We know that the criminal justice system after 13 years of Tory Government is in a state of disrepair. We know that there are huge problems with prisons and prison places in particular.

"And as we’ve seen, there is now a terror suspect on the loose having escaped from Wandsworth Prison. So big questions for the Government to answer. Frankly, Rishi Sunak needs to get a grip."

She added: "We now have a zombie government who are unable to run vast swathes of the public realm, whether that’s our schools or our criminal justice system."

A spokesperson for Gatwick Airport confirmed: "Additional security measures are currently in place at London Gatwick and other UK airports and ports.

"We apologise for any delays passengers may experience. The safety and security of passengers is our number one priority.”

Passengers at Manchester Airport are facing delays of about 30 minutes at security as extra passport checks are carried out 

A spokesman for Manchester Airport said: “Our security teams work hard to ensure the safety and security of all at Manchester Airport and carry out important checks set by the UK government.”

There were some queues at Heathrow Airport security on Wednesday, but it is “operating as normal”

The escape from Wandsworth prison had a knock-on effect of disrupting court hearings for other defendants on remand at the south London site.

On Wednesday morning, murder-accused Earl Morin-Britton, 36, from Sutton, south London, missed his first appearance at the Old Bailey by video link from Wandsworth prison due to the lockdown.

A prison officer told Judge Alexia Durran that there was “an operational emergency and no movement across the establishment”.

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