Police leading the search for a prisoner who escaped from Wandsworth Prison said there had been no confirmed sightings of him more than 30 hours after his disappearance.
Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism Command, said on Thursday afternoon that more than 150 investigators and police officers from the Counter-Terrorism Command were involved in the “fast-paced investigation” to find Daniel Abed Khalife.
Police said they had received 50 calls from members of the public but had not yet received any confirmed sightings of the ex-soldier since he escaped from the Category B prison on Wednesday morning.
They also suspected that his Army training might have helped him avoid capture after he escaped from prison by strapping himself to the bottom of a food delivery truck.
He said: “This was a very busy area of London and we had no confirmed sightings in any of this information, which is a little unusual and perhaps a testament to Daniel Khalife’s ingenuity in his escape and some of his movements after his escape.”
“It is important that we remember that here in the UK we have some of the best military men in the world and he was a trained soldier. So ultimately he has skills that some parts of the public may not have, and I’m really interested in us doing everything we can to find him.”
He said the Khalife van was hiding under left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32am. He was declared missing at 7:50 a.m.
Police were then notified at 8.15am and the van was stopped at 8.37am more than four miles away on Upper Richmond Road near the junction with Carlton Drive in Mortlake.
Asked whether he was helped to escape and whether he had access to money, Commander Dominic Murphy said this was part of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, adding: “He is out in the open now so who can say whether he has money available?” him now, but that is part of our investigation and what we are trying to understand.
“He’s clearly a very resourceful person and our experience with him shows that, so nothing is off the table with him at the moment.”
Justice Minister Alex Chalk vowed Thursday that Khalife would be found as he announced an investigation into why he was not being held in a higher-security facility.
A major manhunt is underway to find former soldier Daniel Abed Khalife, who escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday morning by clinging to a food delivery van.
The 21-year-old, who is reportedly suspected of spying for Iran, was working in the prison kitchen when he escaped.
There are fears the refugee may attempt to flee the country and the incident has prompted additional security checks at key transport hubs.
Asked why Khalife was being held in a Category B prison, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk confirmed that he had ordered a review of the categorization of all prisoners at HMP Wandsworth and all inmates charged with terrorist offenses across the UK.
“Daniel Khalife will be found and brought to justice,” he told MPs.
He added that “this incident will require an additional independent investigation, which will take place in due course.”
Mr Chalk said he spoke to prison service leaders immediately after Khalife’s escape to find out what was known about it.
“I made it clear then and I still make it clear today that no stone should be left unturned to get to the bottom of what happened,” he said.
“Who was on duty that morning?” In what roles, from the kitchen to the prison gate?
“What protocols were there? Were they followed?”
Mr Chalk confirmed that Khalife had probably tied himself with makeshift straps to the underside of a food van which then drove him out of prison at around 7.30am.
“Soon afterwards, local contingency plans for a missing prisoner were activated and police were informed in accordance with standard procedure,” he said.
“The prison was placed on lockdown while staff attempted to determine the whereabouts of Daniel Khalife.
“After the alarm was raised, the vehicle was stopped and searched by police.
“Webbings were found underneath the vehicle indicating that Daniel Khalife may have held on to the underside to escape.”
Khalife was reportedly held in Category A Belmarsh Prison before his transfer.
At HMP Wandsworth, conditions and staffing levels were questioned.
The dilapidated Victorian prison was also left without water for a week last year.
Local MP Rosena Allin-Khan said: “There have been ongoing staffing issues at Wandsworth Prison.
She said staff had been asked to work double shifts to make up the deficit.
“It is really worrying that someone who managed to escape is now at large.
“I actually raised this with the Justice Minister many months ago when it was brought to my attention [the staffing levels].”
Khalife was discharged from the army in May 2023 and awaiting trial after allegedly planting a fake bomb at an RAF base and gathering information that could be useful to terrorists or enemies of the United Kingdom.
It is alleged that he placed “three canisters with wires on a desk in his accommodation” to create the impression to another that they were “likely to explode or ignite, causing personal injury or property damage.”
A trial date has been set for November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has held an urgent phone call with the prison governor and senior prison service staff to seek assurances about what is being done to ensure the prison is safe.
After the manhunt began, there were delays of around 30 minutes at security at Manchester Airport as additional passport checks were carried out.
Delays were also reported at the port of Dover and Gatwick Airport said additional security measures had been put in place.
The head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, Commander Dominic Murphy, said there was “no reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the general public” but urged people not to approach him and to call 999 to call if they spot him.
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/investigation-wandsworth-prison-category-b-escape-prisoner-daniel-abed-khalife-search-latest-b1105429.html Police hunting an escaped terror suspect say “no confirmed sightings” and army training could help him hide