Daniel Khalife charged with escaping custody

Preliminary findings of an investigation determined that relevant procedures and security staff were in place at the time he went missing

A Serco vehicle outside Wandsworth prison. Reuters
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Terrorism suspect Daniel Khalife has been charged with escaping custody at HMP Wandsworth, the Metropolitan Police said on Sunday.

The 21-year-old former soldier, who was recaptured by police on Saturday, is believed to have escaped the prison by strapping himself to the bottom of a delivery lorry after leaving the prison kitchen in a cook’s uniform on Wednesday.

He is due to appear in Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday.

Preliminary findings of an investigation determined that relevant procedures and security staff were in place at the time Mr Khalife went missing, said the Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, on Sunday.

But about 40 people on remand have been moved to different sites "out of an abundance of caution" amid questions over why a former soldier accused of a terror offence was not in the highest security prison, he said.

He told Sky's Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: "Out of an abundance of caution, some prisoners there - some of those on remand - have been moved (this week).

"Additional resources have, of course, gone into Wandsworth, so there's additional governor support, a former governor with particular expertise in security.

"But also, out of an abundance of caution, around 40 prisoners have been moved just while we get to the bottom of what took place in Wandsworth. That is a sensible, precautionary measure."

Mr Chalk said the investigation has looked into whether protocols were in place relating to the unloading of food from a van and searching the delivery vehicle.

"Those protocols were in place, point one," he said. "And point two, the relevant security staff were also in place.

"Plainly what we've yet to establish is whether those protocols were followed."

He said he will set out "next week" the terms of reference of the separate independent investigation to ensure that the conclusions are "rock solid".

Mr Khalife was dramatically arrested on Saturday in the north-west London suburb of Northolt after four days on the run.

He was being held in Wandsworth at the time of his escape ahead of his trial on offences relating to terrorism and the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Khalife is suspected 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.

He is also facing accusations that he passed information to Iran.

Mr Khalife was brought up in west London 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 described as “a bit lost and generally quite sweet” by those who knew him as a child.

Land and air search

He 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.

After a mass land and air search aided by the security services, Mr Khalife was detained on suspicion of being unlawfully at large and being an escaped prisoner at 10.41am on Saturday after being pulled off a push bike by a plain-clothed counter terrorism officer.

He was arrested on a canal towpath in west London, around eight miles from where he was last seen by a member of the public, and remains in police custody.

Officers conducted an "intelligence-led search at a residential premises" in the Richmond area and, although Khalife was not found there, the force received a number of calls from the public with sightings of the suspect nearby.

The Met's counter-terrorism boss Commander Dominic Murphy said Mr Khalife was "fully co-operative" as he was handcuffed, with some media reports claiming he was "laughing" as he was arrested.

It is unclear whether he will be returned to the category B prison or a higher-security location.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 12:48 PM