Police keeping ‘open mind’ on whether escaped terror suspect has left country

Police are refusing to rule out that Daniel Khalife has left the country or that he had outside help to escape from prison, as the search for the fugitive terror suspect enters its third day.

Former soldier Khalife, who is reportedly accused of gathering intelligence for Iran, disappeared from HMP Wandsworth in his chef’s uniform on Wednesday, prompting extra security checks at key transport hubs.

Belts were found on the underside of a Bidfood delivery van which police stopped just over an hour after it left the prison. Officers suspected Khalife was holding onto the underside of the van to escape.

His disappearance has raised questions about staffing levels at HMP Wandsworth and why he was being held in a Category B prison.

The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism commander said it was “a testament to the ingenuity” of the 21-year-old that there had been no confirmed sightings since his escape from prison.

Dominic Murphy said he was keeping an “open mind” about whether Khalife received assistance from anyone to escape from prison and whether he managed to leave the country.

He said more than 150 investigators and police officers from the Counter-Terrorism Command were working on investigations in London and officers had received more than 50 calls from the public which had provided “some really valuable lines of inquiry”.

In a press conference on Thursday, Mr Murphy said: “This was a very busy area of ​​London and we have not received any 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.

“He was a trained soldier – so ultimately he has skills that some sections of the public may not have.

“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.”

It is believed the truck had Khalife wearing a seatbelt as it left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32am on Wednesday. He was declared missing at 7:50 a.m.

Police were notified at 8:15 a.m. and the truck was stopped at 8:37 a.m. on Upper Richmond Road, near the intersection with Carlton Drive.

CCTV footage later emerged showing the van driving down a London street after leaving prison.

The justice minister confirmed that an independent investigation would take place following Khalife’s escape.

When you find a prison like Wandsworth it absolutely needs to be closed. Ultimately, it is not a suitable prison

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylo

Alex Chalk told MPs that two urgent reviews would also take place into the categorization and accommodation of all HMP Wandsworth prisoners and anyone detained for terrorism offences.

Wandsworth Prison’s performance was deemed a “serious concern” and watchdogs had issued a series of warnings about the prison last year before Khalife’s escape.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor told the PA news agency the staff shortage was “the cause of many problems” at the prison and later said Wandsworth would remain closed “in an ideal world”.

Mr Taylor told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “When you find a prison like Wandsworth it really needs to be closed. “Ultimately it’s not a suitable prison.”

He added: “You need prisons because you need to service the courts. We actually have a crisis in prisons at the moment, just in terms of the number of places.

“So at the moment there are just as many prisons and places available as the number of prisoners arriving.”

John Podmore, a former governor of HMP Brixton and HMP Belmarsh, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One he believed Khalife should have been held in the high-security Belmarsh prison, which often holds terrorist prisoners and those accused of such crimes and not Category B Wandsworth Prison.

Mr Podmore said: “In my opinion he should have been in Belmarsh.

“It’s much more in line with the level of security that someone like this – accused, not convicted – needs. I can’t understand why he wasn’t at Belmarsh.”

A former inmate at HMP Wandsworth, who worked alongside Khalife in the prison’s kitchen, said the escapee seemed “strange” to him and told him he was “going to be famous”.

Chris Jones, 53, told BBC London: “He really struck me as a strange sausage.” He came in one lunchtime and said he was going to be famous. I told him, ‘I think you got on the wrong bus, mate’.”

Mr Jones, who according to the BBC was released in June after being cleared after seven months in custody, said he was “surprised but not surprised” by Khalife’s escape.

He added: “We always joked about that truck; Jump in and drive off, but there was a lot of security near the kitchen so it’s a surprise he got through there.”

Khalife, who was awaiting trial after allegedly planting a fake bomb on an RAF base and gathering information that could be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK, was discharged from the army in May 2023.

He has denied the three allegations against him.

He was last seen in a white T-shirt, red and white checked trousers and brown steel-toed boots, the Metropolitan Police said. He is described as slim, 1.80 meters tall and with short brown hair.

Kent Police said junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 were temporarily closed on Thursday due to increased security checks – allowing goods heading to mainland Europe to queue on the empty section of the motorway.

Mr Murphy previously said there was “no reason to believe Khalife poses a threat to the general public” but urged people not to approach him and to call 999 if they spotted him.

Khalife has links to the West Midlands and Kingston in London, but Mr Murphy said the hunt covers the entire UK.

He was previously stationed at the Ministry of Defense’s Beacon Barracks in Stafford.

A man was stopped by police at Banbury train station in Oxfordshire on Thursday, but Scotland Yard said it was not Khalife.

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing russellfalcon@ustimespost.com.

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