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Was it an 'inside job'? Terror suspect's jailbreak was 'pre-planned,' Met chief Sir Mark Rowley tells LBC
8 September 2023, 08:33 | Updated: 8 September 2023, 13:56
Met chief Sir Mark Rowley told LBC that the jailbreak of terror suspect Daniel Abed Khalife was carefully planned and possibly an 'inside job', as officers scoured Richmond Park in London as part of efforts to find him.
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"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 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 Bid Food vehicle that left Wandsworth prison before vanishing on Wednesday morning.
There have been no confirmed sightings of Khalife, who was awaiting trial for gathering information useful to an enemy, despite officers receiving more than 50 calls from the public.
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.
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."
He managed to roll out from underneath the van as it travelled across a busy road without being noticed by anyone.
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.
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."
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.
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 is accused of collecting information, notes and documents that would be "useful to the enemy".
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.