Comment Editor, Ben Evans, reports from Westminster Magistrates Court with developments on the alleged escaped prisoner, Daniel Khalife. Details contained in this reported were taken from the hearings in court.
The former soldier turned terror suspect, Daniel Khalife, who is alleged to have escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday 6 September appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court today. This was his first presentation since the four day manhunt over last week and the weekend.
Khalife, 21, was set to appear in front of the Old Bailey in November. He was set to face charges of leaking secrets to an enemy state (in breach of the Terrorism Act, 2000 and the Official Secrets Act, 1989) and for allegedly orchestrating a bomb hoax at MOD Stafford in August 2021. Khalife denies all the charges. The former soldier was being held at HMP Wandsworth when he is alleged to have tried to escape – Khalife was missing for four days.
Khalife appeared in front of the magistrates court wearing a grey tracksuit with his hair slicked back. He appeared calm, yet with a serious look. He did not make a plea today but just stated his name. Given the circumstances, security was increased with five officers in the court room and an enlarged police escort accompanied his journey to the court.
The court heard today that Khalife, may have used bedsheets to help support himself to the bottom of a food delivery truck. Prosecutor, Thomas Williams, accused him of using “the strap to support himself to escape”. The former soldier was working in the kitchens at HMP Wandsworth at the time.
After a 75 hour manhunt for Khalife, he was finally arrested on a canal side path in Northolt, North-West London by an undercover police officer. It was said by the prosecution that Khalife went to Richmond Park and Chiswick before his arrest. There was a £20,000 reward for any information regarding his whereabouts during the search. On his person when arrested, Khalife had: cash, a mobile phone, a change of clothes and his bicycle, the court heard. It has been reported that he had a receipt for the clothes, implying he was able to purchase them himself.
Khalife’s alleged escape came at a time when prisons are overcrowded and under-provisioned. HMP Wandsworth, where Khalife was being held, currently holds 1,600 prisoners when it was built with a capacity of just 900. Whilst grilling the Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, on Sky News, Trevor Philips claimed the prisons are “designed for disaster” with an unexperienced work force and many officers taking frequent sick days to deal with tough mental conditions.
In response, Chalk re-affirmed the government’s plan to recruit more prison officers, whose numbers had fallen by around a quarter between 2010 and 2017 in England and Wales (according to Statista). Since then recruitment has increased, with the number of officers now at 22,288 – an increase of 3,885 since 2017, but still lower than 13 years ago. On September 10 Sky reported that dozens of prisoners have been moved away from HMP Wandsworth – a precautionary measure linked to fears of over-crowding.
Deputy Chief Magistrate, Tan Ikram, remanded Khalife in custody and he will next appear in court at the Old Bailey on the 29 September.