First potential sighting of terror suspect Daniel Khalife as witness claims 'tall, dark' man jumped into getaway car

8 September 2023, 14:11 | Updated: 8 September 2023, 15:19

Khalife has fled jail and sparked a massive manhunt
Khalife has fled jail and sparked a massive manhunt. Picture: LBC

By Will Taylor

The first possible sighting of Daniel Khalife has emerged, as an eyewitness said he saw a man leap into a black car about two miles from Wandsworth prison.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The ex-soldier, who is accused of terror offences and spying, fled the Category B jail on Wednesday morning as LBC was told the escape could have been an inside job.

A newsagent in Putney said he was a "tall, lanky dude with dark hair", who he later recognised as Khalife, get into a black vehicle outside Wansdworth County Court.

He was working as a shop assistant at The Market - Putney Newsagents early on Wednesday when he heard cars beeping and people shouting.

The purported sighting happened near The Market newsagent in Putney, a short distance from HMP Wandsworth
The purported sighting happened near The Market newsagent in Putney, a short distance from HMP Wandsworth. Picture: Google Street View

The witness, who did not want to be named, told the Telegraph he saw the man run from the BidFood lorry he is believed to have hung underneath using strapping to escape the prison.

The car then headed east.

Read more: Police scour Richmond Park in hunt for escaped terror suspect amid fears ex-soldier is using army training to hide

Read more: Innocent man mistaken for terror suspect Daniel Khalife says ‘mistakes happen’ after being ‘questioned for 20 minutes’

Police stop van that Daniel Khalife is believed to have clung to the bottom of to escape prison

A colleague said: "There was lots of beeping by cars and people were annoyed.

"My friend, one of the workers at the shop, was in the shop on that morning, at around 7.30, and he went outside where he saw a man running into a black car. The man was some tall lanky dude with dark hair and there was a BidFood van.

"My friend didn't see him getting out of the van but he saw him sprint across the street to the traffic lights."

A Met spokesman said: “We are aware of news reports about a shop assistant who believes they saw Daniel Khalife. We are trying to identify this man so we can speak with him. We urge him to contact us by calling 999.”

Police have been inundated with dozens of reports but detectives are yet to confirm any sightings.

Read more: Hospitals on alert for patients with 'severe burns' as Met chief tells LBC terror suspect's escape could be 'inside job'

It comes after Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said police are investigating whether Khalife’s escape could have been an ‘inside job.’

Met chief Sir Mark told LBC that Khalife's escape from HMP Wandsworth was carefully planned ahead of time and not opportunistic, as officers scoured Richmond Park in London as part of efforts to find him.

Taking calls from LBC listeners, Sir Mark Rowley told Nick Ferrari that Khalife's escape was "clearly pre-planned".

"The fact he could strap himself onto the bottom of the wagon, there’s obviously some logistics involved.

"Just to work out a prison escape, and how you can do the logistics of it and get the right equipment, and how you’re going to do it, it’s unlikely to be something you do on the spur of the moment."

Terror suspect’s jailbreak was a pre-planned escape, says Commissioner doesn’t rule out ‘inside job'

Sir Mark refused to confirm what was used to make the straps Khalife used to cling onto the van, or whether notebooks were found in his cell.

On the possibility of an ‘inside job,’ Sir Mark said: “We’re going to look at everything. Did he do this on his own? Did anyone from inside the prison help him? It’s a question. Other prisoners? Corrupt guard staff? Was he helped by someone outside the walls? Was it simply all of his own creation?.

“It’s extremely concerning that he’s back on the loose. We need to get hold of him as quickly as possible.”

"Richmond Park is one of the areas that we’ve been looking. This is a massive operation, well into three figures of officers involved.

"At the moment we are still really keen to get any reports from members of the public.

"Have you seen this man? Don’t approach him yourself - we will follow up."

Police have been scouring Richmond Park in the hunt for the escaped terror suspect amid concerns that the ex-British soldier is using his army training to hide.

Sir Mark Rowley asked members of the public to come forward with information
Sir Mark Rowley asked members of the public to come forward with information. Picture: LBC

Sir Mark re-iterated that Khalife is ‘not an immediate threat’ to members of the public but added: "Have you seen this man? We’re really keen for reports from the public."

Officers were seen surrounding the park in the early hours of Friday as two helicopters circled overhead, attempting to track movement with heat-seeking cameras.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, is believed to have used strapping to attach himself to the bottom of a BidFood vehicle that left Wandsworth prison before vanishing on Wednesday morning.

He is accused of collecting information, notes and documents that would be "useful to the enemy".

The Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command is trying to track him down, with more than 150 officers and staff involved in the manhunt.

A source close to the investigation told MailOnline: "If I was him I'd be hundreds of miles away from Wandsworth but we have to be certain he's not on our doorstep.

"The van he was in was a couple of miles from Richmond Park so it has to be searched – and from the air is the easiest way.

"Officers will be at the site overnight but I expect the park to open as usual in the morning, which is a sign they haven't found what they were looking for."

It comes after a photo of the van was released as detectives asked for anyone who saw it on Wednesday morning to come forward.

The Met released this image of the delivery van
The Met released this image of the delivery van. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Questions have since been asked as to how he got out of the prison when inmates are supposed to be under near-constant surveillance.

A security source told the Independent: "All the indications are that this was an orchestrated job and not an opportunistic escape.

"It is almost certain that he had some inside help from the prison."

Speaking in an update on Thursday afternoon, the Met's Counter Terrorism Command boss Dominic Murphy said: "I think that's testament to Khalife's ingenuity around his escape.

"It's a reminder we have some of the best military in the world here and he was a trained soldier so he has skills perhaps some sections of the public don't have."

Khalife had been working in the kitchen of Category B HMP Wandsworth in South London when he climbed under the delivery van and held on as it drove out of the jail.

It is thought he used strapping to keep himself attached to the van. Officers are asking for anyone who saw it after 7.30am to come forward.

The van left the prison and turned right onto Heathfield Road, then left onto Magdalen Road, then it travelled on Trinity Road and took the first exit at the roundabout onto Swandon Way.

It then went onto Old York Road, then onto Fairfield Street before making a right onto Wandsworth High Street before it travelled on Richmond Road, where it was stopped.

He managed to roll out from underneath the van as it travelled across a busy road without being noticed by anyone.

Highly-trained counter terror cops are trying to track down Khalife
Highly-trained counter terror cops are trying to track down Khalife. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Commander Murphy said: "We have issued a nationwide alert that has resulted in increased security at our ports and borders, however currently there have not been any confirmed sightings.

"I recognise and am fully aware of the impact these measures are having on the public. We are working to ensure as minimal disruption as possible.

"It is crucial for the public to help us with this search and to call us immediately if they have any information on the whereabouts of Khalife."

Khalife fled Wandsworth prison
Khalife fled Wandsworth prison. Picture: Alamy

The Met is still searching the London area, especially Kingston, where Khalife has connections, but the force is keeping an open mind as to whether he may have fled the country.

Checks were beefed up at airports while a stretch of the M20 was shut to non-freight traffic as part of an enhanced regime at Dover.

"Khalife's previous military experience may mean he may be more aware of efforts to apprehend him," the Met said in a statement.

It said he does not pose a threat to the wider public but anyone who sees him could call 999 and not approach him.

Khalife served in the army before his arrest
Khalife served in the army before his arrest. Picture: Alamy

He was based at Beacon Barracks in Beaconside, Stafford, where he was alleged to have taken details from MoD personnel files that would be "useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Khalife, who was discharged from the army in May, is also accused of a bomb hoax after allegedly putting "three canisters with wires" on a desk in January this year.

He denies three criminal charges and was due to appear in court in November.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Weather maps are turning red as a wave of heat makes a beeline for the UK, with temperatures set to soar across the country.

UK weather maps heat up as exact date 'North African plume' will see temperatures to hit 29C revealed

Conservatives have accused Keir Starmer of creating a £4.5billion tax black hole, casting doubt over their net zero spending plans.

Labour's net zero black hole? Tories accuse Starmer of £4.5bn budget shortfall as tax hikes loom

England beat Serbia 1-0 in tense first round Euro 2024 clash

England beat Serbia 1-0 after early goal from Jude Bellingham in tense first round Euro 2024 clash

England vs Serbia staring XI confirmed ahead of Three Lions' Euro 2024 clash

England vs Serbia staring XI confirmed as Gareth Southgate prepares for Three Lions' opening Euro 2024 clash

Police hunt 21-year-old man following death of boy, 12 in shocking hit-and-run

Police hunt 21-year-old man following death of boy, 12 in 'appalling' hit-and-run

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting

Wes Streeting urges doctors not to strike amid claims manifesto is not the ‘sum total’ of Labour's NHS spending

Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen ahead of England and Serbia's first Euro 2024 match

Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen as England beat Serbia 1-0 in opening Euro 2024 game

Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists

Labour council urged to refund motorists after ‘unfairly’ fining thousands of drivers £2.6million

Police rammed the cow

Officer who rammed cow with police squad car removed from frontline duties

England fans in Gelsenkirchen

Thousands of England fans descend on Gelsenkirchen ahead of Three Lions' first Euro 2024 match against Serbia

Queues at Birmingham airport

Travel chaos strikes major UK airport as passengers stuck in lengthy queues

Police rammed the cow

Owner of cow rammed by police gives update on its condition and says officers should be fired for 'disgusting' incident

Officers shot a man threatening football fans in Hamburg

Man shot by police after brandishing 'axe and molotov cocktail' close to Euro 2024 fan zone

Labour's Wes Streeting has called for a debate with Nigel Farage

Labour's Wes Streeting calls for debate with Nigel Farage to take on 'toxic rhetoric' in 'battle of ideas'

Prince William's children have sent him a Father's Day message

'We love you papa': George, Charlotte and Louis send Prince William Father's Day message in first social media post

Labour and the Conservatives would leave the NHS 'worse off than under austerity', the Nuffield Trust has warned

Labour and Tories would leave NHS 'worse off' than under austerity, health think tank warns