Army changed recaptured terror suspect Daniel Khalife, relative says

People close to the family reveal details of his childhood and his time in the British military

Daniel Khalife was recaptured on Saturday after escaping from HMP Wandsworth last week. Photo: Metropolitan Police
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Daniel Khalife, the escaped terrorism suspect who was recaptured on Saturday, was affected by his last year in the British Army, his family has said.

Mr Khalife was brought up with his twin sister by a single mother who was born and raised in Iran.

One friend said the family had initially lived in central London, and moved to Teddington when Mr Khalife was around 10 years old.

“He was a very nice guy when he joined school aged 11. He was the class clown, one of the funniest in the year, but he went into his shell a bit,” the friend said.

The family lived in a cramped flat in Kingston, West London and both children attended Teddington School.

Mr Khalife was in the lower sets at school. He was described as a bit of a loner who would sit at the back of the classroom “swinging on his chair”.

He was described as “a bit lost and generally quite sweet”.

“He was not academically inclined but not intimidating either,” a former schoolmate said. “He was a spotty, lanky teenager who sat at the back of class and no one really spoke to, a lost soul.”

Although there was some trouble with pupils from a local estate, generally the school achieved good results.

However, an Ofsted inspection of the school in 2018 found the quality of its teaching was “very mixed and, overall, not good enough” and some pupils engaged in “disruptive” behaviour.

The Khalife twins were brought up by a single mother and “they weren't well off, so they were outsiders”, the friend added.

There was no sign that Mr Khalife had been radicalised or was in any way political during his time at school, the friend said.

“I never had a conversation with either of them that would suggest that.”

Mr Khalife gained a “handful” of GCSEs and then dropped out of school to join the army, where he was serving at Beacon Barracks in Staffordshire, the base for the 1st Signal Brigade.

Mr Khalife joined the army intending to become involved in cyber warfare against Britain's enemies, according to another friend.

His sister Yasmin was more academic and went on to sixth form college, and then to Imperial College London, where she is currently studying for a masters in science communication under a full scholarship.

Ms Khalife is also a keen rower, friends said.

“She was always diligent, very, very clever, and very quiet, while he messed around. If you didn't know, you wouldn't realise they were twins,” the school friend added.

A family member questioned what had turned Mr Khalife from a diligent and enthusiastic soldier to an army runaway. He went missing for three weeks in January this year after allegedly placing a fake home-made bomb on a desk in his barracks.

“He is a very, very intelligent boy, easy going and very kind. He was trying very hard with his life,” the relative said.

“He has been in the Army for four years, since 2019. I don't know what they have done to him.

“He was working with very, very intelligent people but something happened.

“Two years ago he was quite happy, he said he never wanted to leave, he said they were good people and then something happened last year. He was scared to talk about it and so he ran away.”

Mr Khalife's grandparents came to the UK from Iran in 1995. His grandmother was a primary school teacher in her home country and his grandfather, who died in 2020, was an accountant at Tehran University.

Mr Khalife's mother was born in Iran and worked at C&A, the clothes store, and at a bank before getting married in her early 20s.

His father is originally from Lebanon, but his mother's family did not approve of the match, and his maternal grandfather and uncle did not attend the wedding.

The couple broke up when Mr Khalife and his sister were young, and their grandmother began to help their mother, taking the children to school and cooking for them.

Mr Khalife chose not to go to sixth form college, despite his mother's efforts, and instead joined the Army.

“It seemed to be what he needed, that guidance, but the Army has to answer for what happened,” the relative said.

“Danny has gone the wrong way and I don't know why.”

Mr Khalife had not seen his father for years, and that may have been part of the problem, the family member said.

“Some people need guidance. Yasmin always knew what to do but Danny needed someone to tell him and he didn't have that.

“One single parent can't do that, children need to be looked after.”

However, he has visited him in prison since his arrest, the family member said.

The family are secular Iranians and opposed to the current regime, although they do not campaign against it.

Mr Khalife has only visited Iran twice, taken by his mother to visit family when he was a baby and again when he was aged six or seven.

“Danny doesn't know Iran, he loves this country,” the family member said.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 4:14 AM