Former British soldier Daniel Khalife, who is facing trial on terrorism charges, has been recaptured by police in West London following a four-day manhunt.
Mr Khalife, 21, was in custody at HMP Wandsworth when it is believed he escaped by strapping himself to the bottom of a delivery lorry after leaving the prison kitchen in a cook’s uniform.
Police announced on Saturday they had recaptured him 11km away in Chiswick.
He is awaiting trial for allegedly planting a fake bomb at an RAF base and gathering information for Iran.
His escape sparked a nationwide manhunt, as the security services put all ports and airports on high alert.
It led to enhanced security checks which have led to delays for passengers.
The Metropolitan Police said they had found and arrested him just before 11am on Saturday and he is presently in police custody.
“We would like to thank the public and media for their support throughout our investigation to locate Mr Khalife, and we will provide a further update on his arrest in due course,” the force said.
Officers had been searching the district earlier on Saturday after confirmed sightings in the area.
He is believed to have escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday morning.
Mr Khalife was being held in prison ahead of trial on offences relating to terrorism and the Official Secrets Act.
He is accused of trying to pass information during his time working for the Royal Corps of Signals, which handles sensitive communications, and is accused of leaving hoax bomb devices at a military base in Stafford, West Midlands, near the army barracks where he lived.
Home Office Minister Chris Philp congratulated the police for their “rapid and effective” work to reapprehend Mr Khalife.
“Great work by the Met Police. Well done for a rapid and effective piece of work to catch this fugitive,” policing minister Mr Philp said.
“An example of policing at its best. Congratulations to all officers involved in this operation.”
The operation to find him led to Scotland Yard offering a £20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and involved officers using thermal scanners to search Richmond Park, London’s largest park.
Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said officers are investigating whether his escape involved prison staff and, on Saturday, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk vowed to leave “no stone unturned” into how it happened.
“I would like to thank the police and partners for their comprehensive efforts over recent days. I am also grateful to staff across HMPPS (HM Prison and Probation Service) for their continued focus and professionalism,” Mr Chalk said.
“With Daniel Khalife now in custody, the legal process must be allowed to take its course. Nothing should be said or done to prejudice any future trial.
“The investigations I requested into prison security and categorisation are well in train, and I will leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of how this serious breach was possible.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, currently in India at the G20 summit, said he was “very pleased with the news”.
“My thanks to the police officers for their fantastic work over the past couple of days,” he added.
He last appeared in court in London on January 28 and was remanded in custody over two incidents.
Trial at Woolwich Crown Court had been scheduled to begin on November 13.
Who is Daniel Khalife?
The former soldier was born in London to an Iranian mother and Lebanese father and has been described by relatives as a “very, very intelligent, easy going and kind boy”.
He is understood to have only visited Iran twice as a young child – where his grandmother was a primary schoolteacher and his grandfather an accountant.
“Danny doesn’t know Iran, he loves this country,” a relative told The Times, adding that they were secular Iranians opposed to the government in Tehran.
His mother was born in Iran and married in her early 20s in Britain before her marriage broke up.
She then raised Mr Khalife and his twin sister on her own in a flat in Kingston, south-west London.
He joined the army aged 18 in 2019 and served for four years before the investigation which resulted in his discharge in May.