CHAOS was sparked across Britain yesterday in the hunt for fugitive Daniel Khalife as motorways, ports, airports and rail stations were caught up in the search.
In one dramatic swoop, police detained a man who looked like the escaped terror suspect as he waited innocently on a platform.
One onlooker, who pulled into platform three at Banbury, said: ‘We saw about ten officers surrounding a guy on a bencH’[/caption]
Incredibly, travellers held on a train were told: “We apologise for the delay but police are apprehending a suspected terrorist on the platform.”
One passenger said after his train pulled into platform three at Banbury, Oxfordshire: “We saw about ten officers surrounding a guy on a bench. It looked very much like the guy who had escaped.”
Last night the man tweeted to say he proved he was not Khalife with a fingerprint scan and had been upgraded to first-class as an apology.
He wrote: “After about 20 mins of questions (and some gd banter) I proved I wasn’t the escapee.”
As an urgent inquiry got underway:
- HUGE delays built up at Dover and routes to the Channel as cops fear he may have left the country;
- CLAIMS emerged he tried to previously escape in the past month;
- PRISON experts suggested Khalife could have had “inside” help;
- ONE former guard told LBC radio that notebooks with lorry delivery times were found in his cell.
Experts said he should have been in top-security Belmarsh jail in South East London instead of lower- category Wandsworth, where he was given a plum job in the kitchen.
He broke out by clinging on to the underside of the van at 7.30am on Wednesday while dressed in garish red and white chef’s trousers.
The lorry, from Slough-based Bidfood, was supposed to be checked with mirrors on wheels on its way in and out.
However last night there were concerns that the jail is seriously under-staffed. Cops stopped the van just over an hour later two miles away in Putney, with strapping found underneath.
Police have since received reports of around 50 sightings of Khalife, a former soldier.
The Met Police’s counter-terrorism commander Dominic Murphy said it was “unusual” there had been none confirmed in such a busy area of London, but that was “perhaps testament to Khalife’s ingenuity”.
Several sources told The Sun that Khalife made a similar escape attempt within the last month.
An insider said: “He had scratches on his arm but nothing was done.”
His disappearance on Wednesday was noticed soon after 8am and the jail went into lockdown, with its 1,500 lags ordered into cells.
Khalife, attached to the Royal Signal Engineers before his discharge in May, has links to Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey.
His twin sister is studying for a chemistry degree at a prestigious university.
Ex-prison governor John Podmore said he did not understand why he was not detained in Belmarsh.
Giving him a trusted job in the kitchen was also “quite astonishing”, he added.
Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: “It simply beggars belief a man being held on suspected terror charges was able to escape by clinging to the bottom of a food delivery van.”
Khalife is even said to have changed his working pattern to coincide with the arrival of the truck.
Another insider added: “He wasn’t even supposed to be working on the day he went.
“Clearly the arrival of the van must have been his incentive.”
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk announced an independent investigation into the breakout.
In the Annual Prison Performance Ratings for 2022/23, Wandsworth was among nine rated as a “serious concern”.
Sources say it dipped below minimum staffing levels just last week.
Ex-lag Chris Atkins says 35 officers were on duty, well below the 55 needed.
Now a reform campaigner, he told The Sun its inexperienced jailers are “rabbits in the headlights — they’d often have to ask me about the routine and rules”.
Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said “something obviously went wrong”, adding: “There are too many prisoners for the amount of staff who are there.”
Local MP Rosena Allin-Khan claimed only seven officers turned up for a shift in December.
She said: “In these circumstances, undoubtedly mistakes like this will happen.”
Police released a video of the food delivery lorry heading to HMP Wandsworth in South West London[/caption]
QUESTIONS PRISON CHIEFS MUST ANSWER
- Why was a terror suspect
only placed in a Category B
jail rather than locked up in
- Why was he given a job
in the prison kitchen,
which is usually reserved
for most trusted lags?
- Why were basic checks
not carried out on the delivery
van, with mirrors not used
to look underneath?
- Why did prison staff not
alert the authorities he was missing for 45 minutes?
- Was the prison short of
staff at the times, and is this why security was so lax?