‘I was an inmate with Daniel Khalife at HMP Wandsworth – he came to work with a comb and mirror and always said he was going to be famous’
- Chris Jones, 53 prepped food in kitchens while Mr Khalife unloaded deliveries
- Mr Jones said Khalife, 21, ‘always said he was going to be famous’ when working
- Khalife fled HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday morning and is on the run
An inmate who worked with escapee Daniel Khalife in the kitchens at HMP Wandsworth has revealed that he said ‘he was going be famous’.
Detectives think he had external help to escape the jail and fear he could be anywhere in the world.
Chris Jones, 53, told BBC how he prepared food in the prison kitchens while Mr Khalife unloaded lorry deliveries.
He said Mr Khalife had been brought in as a vulnerable prisoner to work with other inmates in the kitchen.
Mr Jones was released from HMP Wandsworth in June after being acquitted after seven months on remand, and now works as a roofer.
He told BBC London that his fellow prisoner appeareded ‘quite down to earth and up for a laugh but didn’t come across as a criminal mastermind’.
Khalife, described as being of slim build, with short brown hair and 6ft 2ins tall, is a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment. He faces a six-week terror trial, standing accused of leaving fake bombs at an army base in Stafford.
While he has links to the Kingston-upon-Thames area of London, as he grew up there, police are searching for him up and down the country.
Mr Jones added: ‘He [Khalife] did seem like an odd sausage. One lunchtime he came in saying that he was going be famous. I told him: ‘I think you’ve got on the wrong bus, mate.’
‘He would come to work with a comb and mirror constantly checking his appearance, although I can’t say I thought much of it.’
Asked how easy an escape might have been, Mr Jones said he was ‘surprised but not surprised’.
He explained: ‘We always used to joke about that lorry; jump in it and drive off, but there was a lot of security staff around the kitchens so it is a surprise he got through there.
‘A prison staff member would stand by the lorry ticking off the goods as they were unloaded; you could not move around freely. If you wanted to move from the coffee shop to the kitchen, the staff would log a move.
‘Having said this, many mistakes were made all the time, all down to staffing issues,’ according to Mr Jones, who told the BBC he spent seven months on remand before being cleared of conspiracy to blackmail.
‘One time we were put on lockdown because there was an inmate missing, but it turned out that he had been released the day before but it hadn’t been correctly registered.
‘So in that sense, I’m not surprised that someone slipped up, or that they didn’t have enough people to staff the kitchen, and that he took his chance to unload the truck and vanish underneath the lorry.’
Mr Jones also said he thought staffing issues were to blame when it came to the jail’s ‘diabolical conditions’, after an independent report on HMP Wandsworth published in September 2022 found that there was a ‘staffing crisis’.
It said: ‘Significant staffing problems are adversely affecting the delivery of a consistent regime. Although technically fully staffed, over 30% of staff are non-operational on a regular basis, for a number of reasons, rising sometimes to over 40%.
‘With an increasing number of more volatile young prisoners, and incidents of violence at alarming levels, the recruitment, training and retention of appropriately skilled and well-motivated staff is essential. The board is very concerned that this is not happening.
‘Yet again, the conditions which prisoners are confined, often two to a cramped cell, are inhumane and degrading.’
The report also pointed out that the majority of prison officers had less than two years’ experience and this lack of ‘prison craft’ was an issue.
Speaking on how he was affected by the staffing crisis while still an inmate Mr Jones said that, at one point, he was not let out of his cell for two weeks, with no shower or exercise, because staff ‘couldn’t or wouldn’t’ open his cell door.
He continued: ‘Through their laziness, the prisoners always suffered. Conditions are the poorest I’ve ever seen. In 2023 the conditions in Wandsworth are worse than prisons in 1989-1990 which was the last time I was in.
‘It’s known as being the worst and dirtiest in the whole system. The kitchen was full of dead rats, and mice constantly came through my cell door.’
The Prisons Service said that HMP Wandsworth is undergoing maintenance to help improve the prison’s safety.
This will see the healthcare unit being replaced, as well as updates being made to fire safety, along with window replacements and the refurbishment of showers.
A source close to the ongoing search for Khalife told MailOnline: ‘If I was him I’d be hundreds of miles away from Wandsworth but we have to be certain he’s not on our doorstep.
‘The van he was in was a couple of miles from Richmond Park so it has to be searched – and from the air is the easiest way.
‘Officers will be at the site overnight but I expect the park to open as usual in the morning, which is a sign they haven’t found what they were looking for.’