A former army soldier accused of terror offences managed to sneak out of a Category-B prison ‘by strapping himself to the underneath a delivery van while in a chef’s uniform.’
Daniel Abed Khalife is believed to have escaped from HMP Wandsworth at around 7.50am on Wednesday by ‘sneaking out of the kitchen’ and ‘clinging onto a delivery van’.
Khalife, who was discharged from the Army in May, was last seen wearing a chef’s uniform – a white t-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel toe cap boots.
It is believed he was working in the kitchens before he ran out and clung onto a van that was delivering goods to the prison which was then put on lockdown.
The Metropolitan Police launched an urgent manhunt for the 21-year-old who was on remand at the prison awaiting trial in relation to terrorism and Official Secrets Act offences at an RAF base, including committing a ‘bomb hoax’ and trying to elicit information that would have been ‘useful to a terrorist’.
Daniel Abed Khalife, an ex-British Army serviceman, has escaped from HMP Wandsworth, sparking an urgent appeal by Metropolitan Police
Helicopters and plain-clothes officers swooped on a residential area of Kingston, southwest 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.’
The force’s Counter Terrorism Command has issued a warning over his escape, and this has sparked enhanced security checks at transport hubs including Manchester Airport and Glasgow Airport, as well as the Port of Dover, causing delays.
The Home Office confirmed that the UK’s Border Force is assisting the police investigation into Khalife’s disappearance, and admitted that there was a temporary increase in outbound queue times at some UK airports, which they said has now been resolved.
Khalife, 21, was on remand at HMP Wandsworth (pictured) awaiting trial in relation to terrorism and Official Secrets Act offences
Ministry of Justice data revealed that just two inmates have managed to escape the prison since 1996
HMP Wandsworth, a Category B prison in southwest London, is one of the UK’s largest
In 2022, HMP Wandsworth’s wardens were heavily criticised in a damning report that claimed the prison was plagued by overcrowding and violence
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
An Army spokesperson said the 21-year-old was a ‘former soldier’ and was charged with terrorism and other offences.
The 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 is of slim build, has short brown hair and is around 6ft 2ins tall. Khalife has links to the Kingston area.
As the hunt continues, fears are growing that he may have escaped further afield – and police officers are checking all IDs in several airports across the UK.
The prison he ran from is notorious for being overcrowded and underfunded, leading to severely poor conditions that were condemned in a 2022 report.
HMP Wandsworth’s wardens were admonished by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for rising levels of violence in the filthy Category-B prison.
The report found that prisoners were often locked up for 22 hours a day in squalid cells.
Investigators found that prisoners could only wash their clothes once every two weeks.
They found that inmates lived in ‘very poor’ conditions, and were often surrounded by ‘piles of litter’ in ‘dirty, graffiti-covered cells.’
Questions were being asked last night about why 21-year-old Khalife had been placed in a Category B prison as he had been denied bail because he was considered a flight risk.
During a previous hearing, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that he had been AWOL for around three weeks after an alleged bomb hoax in January.
What’s HMP Wandsworth famous for?
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
Sources: Wandsworth Guardian, Old Police Cells Museusm
After that court appearance, Khalife was denied bail and held at HMP Belmarsh, a high-security Category A prison. But by July he was being held at Wandsworth prison, the BBC reported, although it is not clear when he was transferred there.
In January this year Khalife, of Beaconside, Stafford, was charged over two incidents at an RAF base in Stafford in August 2021 and January 2023. He has denied all the charges against him.
He was accused of attempting to ‘elicit information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’, at Beaconside, Stafford, on August 2 2021. This is contrary to section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000.
He was also charged with placing ‘three cannisters with wires on a desk in his accommodation with the intention of inducing in another a belief that the said article was likely to explode or ignite’.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard it was his intention to ’cause personal injury or damage to property’ at the base in Beaconside, Stafford, on or before January 2 of this year.
Khalife is set to face a six-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court starting on November 13.
Passengers at both Manchester and Glasgow airports have told of major disruption to security queues, with a tannoy announcing that the delays are due to a ‘national incident’, the Daily Record and Manchester Evening News reported.
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.’
Heathrow airport also advised passengers to expect delays due to ‘additional checks required’.
Port of Dover Travel posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: ‘Due to a police matter, there are currently enhanced checks on outbound traffic at the Port of Dover and other portals within the UK.
‘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.’
In a statement to MailOnline, a spokesperson for Met Police said: ‘An alert was issued by the Counter Terrorism Command earlier today in relation to Khalife through established operational briefing channels to relevant UK police and law enforcements agencies, including those at UK ports and borders.’
Khalife was charged in January over two incidents at RAF Stafford in Beaconside (pictured) in August 2021 and January 2023
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.
How many other prisoners have escaped HMP Wandsworth?
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.
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.’
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’.
People are advised not to approach Khalife and to call 999 immediately, quoting reference CAD 1631/06SEP23.
Scotland Yard said they want to hear from anyone with information that might assist with locating Khalife – even if it doesn’t relate to a live sighting.
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.
‘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.’