Daniel Abed Khalife prison escape: Richmond Park closed off by police in search for escaped prisoner

Police have been scouring Richmond Park for fugitive terror suspect Daniel Abed Khalife.

Officers were stationed at key entry and exit points into the early hours of Friday - with two police helicopters still active overhead.

Richmond Park, in southwest London, was closed during the operation, and the investigation was paused until daylight.

Khalife, a 21-year-old former soldier, escaped from Wandsworth Prison on Wednesday morning.

He was working in the kitchen and wearing a chef's uniform when he held on to straps underneath a food lorry after it left the prison at 7.32am, to make his getaway.

Richmond Park is just a few miles away from the Category B prison, with detectives previously confirming they were focusing their search efforts in the area.

Khalife has links to southwest London, having growing up in the area, Sky News correspondent Milena Veselinovic said.

His mother and sister were believed to have lived in a flat on the outskirts of the park until a few years ago.

Veselinovic described the park as "a very big grassy area" and that it is "very easy to conceal yourself there if you know where you are going".

On Thursday night, Scotland Yard said there had been no confirmed sightings of Khalife since his escape despite the police receiving more than 50 calls from the public.

While investigators believe it is possible the terror suspect has already left the country, over 150 counterterrorism officers have been involved in a nationwide manhunt.

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, admitted the circumstances around Khalife's disappearance were "a little unusual" and said the escape was "perhaps a testament" to his "ingenuity".

He added: "We have some of the best military in the world here in the UK and he was a trained soldier.

"So ultimately he has skills perhaps some sections of the public don't have."

Commander Murphy went on to describe Khalife as a "very resourceful individual" and said his escape "clearly" took some planning.

Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said officers are "looking at" whether Khalife was assisted by prison guards or other inmates as part of their investigation. No arrests have been made.

He added that it "seemed odd" Khalife was not in a high security prison, and escaped from a Category B prison.

Asked during an interview with LBC why the police waited until 3.30pm on Wednesday to alert the public to the escape - about seven hours after the food lorry was first searched by police - Mr Rowley said opening the phone lines can "generate a lot of noise", not just helpful tips.

"If we thought he was about to go out immediately and be an immediate threat to local communities, of course that would have been a factor - but that's not a factor in this case," he said.

Khalife is a former member of the Royal Signals who was based at Beacon Barracks in Stafford and was on remand awaiting trial accused of leaving fake bombs at a military base, a charge under the Terrorism Act, and another under the Official Secrets Act.

The incident has also sparked a row about HMP Wandsworth, which was built in 1851.

The most recent report by His Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Prisons said it "remains one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country, with most prisoners sharing a cell built for one".

Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, told Sky News he believes it should be shut down.

Speaking on the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge, he said: "When you find a prison like Wandsworth, it really needs closing ultimately - it is not a suitable prison.

"In an ideal world one would, but of course you need jails because you need to service the courts."

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