A former security chief at Wandsworth Prison said terror suspect Daniel Abed Khalife’s escape was “at best” a “catastrophic systems failure”.
Police are still searching for the former soldier on terrorism charges, who is believed to have escaped from a prison kitchen by clinging to a van.
Khalife, 21, went missing in his chef’s uniform from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday, prompting extra security checks at key transport hubs.
Professor Ian Acheson said on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ program on Thursday: “At best, this is a catastrophic systems failure that actually starts with Khalife being assigned to Wandsworth and ending with a terror suspect working in a prison kitchen facility in the crisis (and) escape with a vehicle.
“So it’s incredibly embarrassing for the prison service, but it’s not entirely surprising given what we know about what’s going on at Wandsworth at the moment.”
Professor Acheson, also a former warden, was critical of conditions at Wandsworth.
“Well, I’m sorry to say that Wandsworth, like so many of our flagship prisons, is in freefall,” he said.
“You only have to look at the recent inspections and other surveillance reports that show it’s dirty and bug infested. Every day, 30% to 44% of frontline workers are unavailable for work.
“The morale is terrible. I mean, frankly, if you can’t even manage to empty the bins in a place like Wandsworth, what else goes wrong?”
Khalife, who was discharged from the army in May 2023, 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.
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 slim, 1.80 meters tall and has short brown hair.
After his escape, the prison was sealed off.
Describing security around the prison, he said: “Vehicles entering and exiting a prison that breach a prison’s security perimeter is a known vulnerability. It’s one of the biggest security flaws you can imagine.
“The most important thing is to ensure that the vehicle is thoroughly searched when the transporter returns to the airlock.”
The professor added that every vehicle leaving the prison is usually searched upstairs and downstairs to make sure there are no escapees.