No prison officers in the kitchen at HMP Wandsworth on morning Daniel Khalife escaped, union boss says

15 September 2023, 19:43 | Updated: 15 September 2023, 19:52

There were only 39 prison officers on duty in HMP Wandsworth at the time of Daniel Khalife's escape
There were only 39 prison officers on duty in HMP Wandsworth at the time of Daniel Khalife's escape. Picture: Met Police/Alamy

By Kit Heren

There were no prison officers in the kitchens at HMP Wandsworth on the day of Daniel Khalife's escape.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Khalife, 21, was remanded in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday after escaping from the south-west London prison on September 6 by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery lorry.

He had been working in the kitchen.

Khalife was arrested and pulled off a bike last Saturday after being spotted by a plain-clothes officer.

Not a single officer in the kitchen on the day Daniel Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth

No prison officers were working in the kitchen at HMP Wandsworth, as is common in British prisons because employing civilian caterers alongside inmates is cheaper.

Read more: 'My son does not live in reality': Daniel Khalife's mother begs him to seek help

Read more: Daniel Khalife: How the terror suspect was caught by police after a four-day national manhunt for fugitive

Daniel Khalife, who escaped from Wandsworth prison.
Daniel Khalife, who escaped from Wandsworth prison. Picture: Alamy

Mark Fairhurst, the head of the union the Prison Officers Association, said: "Previously, we used to have prison officers working as kitchen officers.

"Now, if we still had kitchen officers, there would be enhanced security because prison officers are trained to a level above everybody else," he told LBC's Tom Swarbrick.

He added: "What training does a civilian member of staff get in the kitchen?"

Pressed by Tom on whether Wandsworth had prison officers in the kitchen, he said: "No prison officers at all. Civilianised area."

Timeline of events leading to recapture of terror suspect Daniel Khalife

A government minister said earlier on Friday that 80 prison officers did not attend their shifts at HMP Wandsworth on the day Daniel Khalife escaped - meaning roughly 120 out 200 officers were on duty.

Mr Fairhurst disputed these figures. He said: "Factually, I know that about only 84 prison officers were on duty on the morning of that escape - that is clearly not safe." He added that at least 126 should have been there.

Mr Fairhurst said that in areas where recruitment is difficult like London and the south-east, and other remote prisons throughout the country, very low staffing levels are "the norm".

He added: "We've got some prisons that are running on less than 50% of their staffing levels. Because we simply can't retain the staff we recruit because of prisons or the violence and staff are under that much pressure."

Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley on Daniel Khalife

Mr Fairhurst said that because of low staffing levels, 'temp' officers filling in gaps in London and the south-east were costing the taxpayer £1 million per month.

A prison service spokesperson said: "Staffing levels at HMP Wandsworth have increased by around a quarter since 2017 and there were an appropriate number of staff on duty that day, with almost all absences factored into workforce planning, including staff out for training or on annual leave.

"The initial investigation did not find staffing levels to be a contributing factor in the escape. All staff were on duty in the kitchen and gatehouse."