10 September 2023

Around 40 inmates moved out of Wandsworth Prison after Daniel Khalife escape

10 September 2023

Around 40 inmates of HMP Wandsworth have been moved out of the Category B prison after terror suspect Daniel Khalife’s escape, the Justice Secretary has said.

Alex Chalk said on Sunday that the preliminary findings of his investigation into London’s Victorian jail have found that the relevant procedures and security staff were in place.

But he said dozens of individuals on remand have been moved to different sites “out of an abundance of caution” amid questions over why a former soldier accused of a terror offence was not in the highest security prison.

Mr Chalk told Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “Out of an abundance of caution, some prisoners there – some of those on remand – have been moved (this week).

“Additional resources have, of course, gone into Wandsworth, so there’s additional governor support, a former governor with particular expertise in security.

“But also, out of an abundance of caution, around 40 prisoners have been moved just while we get to the bottom of what took place in Wandsworth. That is a sensible, precautionary measure.”

Khalife, 21, remains in police custody after he was dramatically arrested on Saturday in the north-west London suburb of Northolt after four days on the run.

Mr Chalk, discussing the preliminary findings of a review he issued, said the investigation has looked into whether protocols were in place relating to the unloading of food from a van and searching the delivery vehicle.

“Those protocols were in place, point one,” he said. “And point two, the relevant security staff were also in place.

“Plainly what we’ve yet to establish is whether those protocols were followed.”

He said he will set out “next week” the terms of reference of the separate independent investigation to ensure that the conclusions are “rock solid”.

Mr Chalk, a former barrister, told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg that “in recent years there has been huge investment” amid claims that the Conservative’s austerity drive has decayed the prisons estate.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor has said that Wandsworth, opened in 1851, “really needs closing”, having been given a rating of “serious concern” in official annual reports as far back as in 2016/17.

After a mass land and air search aided by the security services, Khalife was detained on suspicion of on suspicion of being unlawfully at large and being an escaped prisoner at 10.41am on Saturday after being pulled off a push bike by a plain-clothed counter terrorism officer.

He was arrested on a canal towpath in west London, around eight miles from where he was last seen by a member of the public, and remains in police custody.

Officers conducted an “intelligence-led search at a residential premises” in the Richmond area and, although Khalife was not found there, the force received a number of calls from the public with sightings of the suspect nearby.

The Met’s counter-terrorism boss Commander Dominic Murphy told reporters on Saturday: “In terms of the investigation, it really gathered momentum yesterday afternoon, with a number of calls from the public, but really took a different course last night, when we did an intelligence-led search in the Richmond area in the early hours of this morning.

“Whilst we didn’t find him at that search, while we were at that search, we had a number of calls from the public over the next hour or two, giving us various sightings of him.”

Mr Murphy said Khalife was “fully co-operative” as he was handcuffed, with some media reports claiming he was “laughing” as he was arrested.

He added police have not had a claim for the £20,000 reward yet.

Detectives believe the former soldier escaped from HMP Wandsworth by strapping himself to the bottom of a delivery lorry after leaving the prison kitchen in a cook’s uniform.

It is unclear whether he will be returned to the category B prison or a higher-security location.

Khalife was awaiting trial after allegedly planting a fake bomb at an RAF base and gathering information that might be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK.

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