Daniel Khalife, a 21-year-old ex-soldier who was arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack, managed to escape from Wandsworth Prison on Wednesday morning by clinging to the underside of a lorry. He had been remanded in custody since July, awaiting trial for allegedly planning to detonate a bomb at a crowded place in London.
Khalife, who converted to Islam after serving in Afghanistan, was able to evade the security checks at the prison gate by hiding under a Bidfood catering vehicle that was delivering food to the inmates. He then cut himself free from the lorry and fled on foot.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that two guards at Wandsworth Prison have been suspended following his dramatic escape. It is understood that both were involved in overseeing the exit of the vehicle from the prison grounds. A source said: “They either didn’t do their job properly or they were complicit in some way.”
MI5, MI6 and anti-terror police launched a massive manhunt for Khalife
As soon as Khalife’s escape was discovered, MI5, MI6 and anti-terror police launched a massive manhunt for him, fearing that he might carry out his alleged terror plot or harm members of the public. They used surveillance cameras, phone taps, informants and undercover agents to track his movements and contacts.
Security sources told the newspaper that intercepted communications led dozens of police officers to a house in Richmond, South-West London, where they were convinced that Khalife was hiding. They raided the property on Friday night, but missed him by minutes. They found evidence that he had been there, including clothes, food and a mobile phone.
One of the officers involved in the operation said: “We were so close to catching him. He must have got wind of our presence and slipped away. He was very cunning and resourceful.”
Khalife was finally captured by an undercover officer on a canal towpath
But Khalife’s four days on the run ended just hours later – at 10.41am yesterday – when an undercover officer pulled him from a bike, believed to be stolen, as he cycled along a canal towpath near Brentford Lock. The officer, who was posing as a jogger, tackled Khalife to the ground and handcuffed him. He was then taken to a nearby police station for questioning.
The officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, said: “I recognised him from his photo and description. He looked nervous and suspicious. I decided to act quickly and take him down before he could escape again. He didn’t put up much of a fight. He seemed exhausted and resigned.”
The arrest was welcomed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who praised the “bravery and professionalism” of the security services and the police. She said: “This was a very dangerous individual who posed a serious threat to our national security and public safety. I am relieved that he has been brought back into custody and will face justice for his alleged crimes.”
Police are now hunting for possible accomplices of Khalife
Police will intensify their hunt for possible accomplices of Khalife – both those who might have helped him escape from prison and those who helped him evade capture while at large. They are also investigating whether he had any links to extremist groups or networks, both in the UK and abroad.
A senior police source said: “We are not ruling out the possibility that he had some support from others who shared his radical views or sympathised with his cause. We are following up every lead and every clue to identify and arrest anyone who assisted him or conspired with him.”
The source added: “We are also examining his phone and computer records to see if he had any contact with terrorist organisations or individuals who might have inspired or instructed him. We are determined to find out the full extent of his plans and motives.”