Police comb Richmond Park in hunt for terror fugitive Daniel Khalife

Police comb Richmond Park in hunt for fugitive ‘Iran spy’: Helicopters with heat-seeking cameras scour grassland for hours – amid fears ‘resilient’ ex-Brit soldier Daniel Khalife, 21, is using army training to hide after escaping Wandsworth Prison in van

  • The Met’s helicopters are circling Richmond Park, an area Khalife grew up near
  • Several schoolmates said he was shy and awkward, and was bullied at school
  • The former soldier was charged with terror offences earlier this year 

The ‘resourceful’ former soldier accused of spying for Iran who managed to escape HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday could be anywhere in the country and may survive on his own for days thanks to his military training, according to a military expert. 

Police helicopters equipped with heat-seeking cameras were seen scouring Richmond Park for several hours on Thursday in search of terror suspect Daniel Khalife, 21, who managed to slip out of HMP Wandsworth in southwest London by strapping himself to a food delivery truck. 

A former prisoner who worked with the escaped suspect, who is accused of planting fake bombs at an army base and collecting personal information on soldiers he was going to pass to Iran, said on Thursday that Khalife claimed he was ‘going to be famous’ while they worked together. 

CCTV footage of the audacious escape emerged, showing what appeared to be straps hanging from the delivery van Khalide, described as being of slim build, with short brown hair and 6ft 2ins tall, used to escape. 

Daniel Khalife (pictured) is accused of planting fake bombs at an army base and collecting personal information on soldiers he was going to pass to Iran

Police have been seen searching Richmond Park in South London - a short distance from the prison

The Bidfood delivery truck that Khalife, 21, strapped himself to was seen making its way down a busy road in southwest London on Wednesday

Khalife, a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment who was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial, in which he was accused of leaving fake bombs at an army base in Stafford, was meant to be working in the kitchens when he sneaked out and strapped himself underneath a Bidfood truck that delivered food and supplies on Wednesday.

The soldier-turned-alleged-spy served fellow inmates breakfast and then evaded guards and CCTV while the vehicle was driven for 250 yards along an internal road and out through HMP Wandsworth’s famous Victorian gate in a matter of minutes.

Khalife is believed to have slipped out of one several doors to the kitchen having said he was unloading a supplies van, and has still not been found. 

The Met said he was declared missing at 7:50 am, and the Met was notified at 8:15. 

After leaving the prison, the hijacked food van turned left onto Magdalen Road, before it turned left onto Trinity Road (A214) up to the Wandsworth Roundabout and took the first exit onto Swandon Way (A217).

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Khalife held on to the underside of the truck with straps, which were found by police after they had stopped the vehicle

Officers using sniffer dogs spent two hours combing through the vehicle and looking underneath it

An onlooker, who took these dramatic videos, told MailOnline this evening: 'The police pulled up behind the van after ordering it to stop

While separate footage showed the Metropolitan Police swarming the Bidfoods delivery truck in southwest London, the escapee was nowhere to be seen. 

The food van then turned left onto Old York Road, past Wandsworth Town station, then left onto Fairfield Street, right onto Wandsworth High Street (A3) staying straight ahead onto West Hill and then on to Upper Richmond Road (A205).

It is not known exactly where the van went after this, or where Khalife may have left the vehicle.  

The Met says its investigation into his disappearance is focused on London, particularly around this route, as well as the Kingston-Upon-Thames area, where Khalife was known to have connections.

Them Met Police admitted that Khalife's 'previous military experience' may make him harder to catch, as he is likely 'more aware of efforts to apprehend him.'

Daniel Khalife (pictured), a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial

Colleagues of Khalife described him today as 'jovial, a bit dopey and playful'

Officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning

Despite mobilising more than 150 police officers, and working with the Border Force and other security agencies across the country, the former soldier still has not been found on the second night of his manhunt. 

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. 

In London, cops were seen swooping in on the vehicle he strapped himself to in order to escape the Category B prison he was kept in. 

Video footage shared with MailOnline revealed that officers pulled the Bidfood van over on the Upper Richmond Road in Putney, Southwest London at 8.37am yesterday morning, around two miles from the prison.

Officers using sniffer dogs spent two hours combing through the vehicle and looking underneath it, but nothing except for the straps he used was found. 

Dressed as a chef, the soldier-turned-alleged-spy served fellow inmates breakfast and then evaded guards and CCTV while the vehicle was driven for 250 yards along an internal road

The van left the Category-B prison at around 7:30 am, taking a right turn out of the gates onto Heathfield Road

This is the route the van took after it left HMP Wandsworth

MailOnline understands he slipped out of a kitchen door into this area close to C Block in the jail but nobody noticed he was gone

Prison guards walk around a van at the gates of HM Prison Wandsworth with mirrors to check it. Experts say this can't have been done properly when the fugitive escaped

How many other prisoners have escaped HMP Wandsworth and what is the jail like?

In 1965, Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs escaped with three others by scaling HMP Wandsworth’s 30-ft perimeter wall after they were allowed out to exercise.

Prison guards, obstructed by other inmates who were still exercising, watched on helplessly during the daring prison break.

Biggs went on to be a fugitive for 36 years, living in Australia and Brazil before flying back to the UK in 2001 and being put behind bars again.

In 2003, Eamon Donaghue ditched his prison clothes for a prison officer’s uniform he found while cleaning the officers’ mess hall. 

Fraudster Neil Moore was on remand in the Category B prison when he managed to get out in 2015 by posting a letter to wardens pretending it was from the court service. 

He told clueless wardens that he had been granted bail, and was free to walk out. 

He later had a ‘change of heart’ and surrendered himself after ‘three or four days.’

And most recently, in 2019, a prisoner was wrongly released by Wandsworth staff just six days into a six-week sentence. 

Wandsworth has seen at least six inmates break out over the years - including Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs

HMP Wandsworth, a Category B prison in southwest London, is one of the UK’s largest. 

It was built in 1851 as the ‘Surrey House of Correction.’

In 2022, its wardens were heavily criticised in a damning report that claimed the prison was plagued by overcrowding and violence. 

The report noted that prisoners were left in ‘very poor conditions’ surrounded by ‘piles of litter’ in ‘dirty, graffiti covered cells.’

Until as recently as 1996, inmates were forced to clean up their own excrement every morning in a process call ‘slopping out.’

Notable current and former inmates include:

  • German tennis star Boris Becker 
  • Boxer and artist Charles Bronson 
  • David Chaytor, the first MP to be convicted for his role in the parliamentary expenses scandal 
  • Drill artist Digga D
  • Paedophiles Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris
  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
  • Gangster Ronnie Kray 
  • Great Train Robbery culprit Ronnie Biggs 


An onlooker, who took these dramatic videos, told MailOnline this evening: ‘The police pulled up behind the van after ordering it to stop.

‘They spent a few hours looking all the way through it, in the back, in the driver’s cab, underneath it and even on top of it.

‘They had sniffer dogs trying to pick up the scent of something, but they didn’t find anything of any note.

‘I didn’t know what was going on. It’s only tonight that I’ve found out this was the truck used by the escaped prisoner. It’s quite shocking.’

A senior defence source claims that terror suspect Daniel Khalife’s training in the British army makes him adaptable and resilient, and harder to catch than the average person. 

The unnamed source told the Telegraph: ‘We teach them initiative, command tasks, problem solving skills. We train people well, to be individuals, to adapt, overcome and improvise.

‘He’s not in the infantry so doesn’t have the same resilience level as an infantry soldier, but even our basic soldiers are trained to be resilient to adapt, overcome and survive in harsh and unpredictable environments.

The source added: ‘We do something called ‘survive, evade, resist and escape’, known as SERE training. It’s one of the basic annual training events each year.

‘Soldiers are taught how to escape in the wild, to build shelters, and basic communication skills.’

The Met Police said that he was going to be hard to catch, with the force’s head of counterterrorism command, commander Dominic Murphy, saying at a briefing: ‘Our experience of him shows that, so nothing is off the table with him at the moment.

‘This was a really busy area of London and we’ve had no confirmed sightings in any of that information, which is a little unusual, and perhaps testament to Daniel Khalife’s ingenuity in his escape and some of his movements after his escape.

‘It’s important that we remember that we have some of the best military in the world here in the UK and he was trained.

‘He was a trained soldier – so ultimately he has skills that perhaps some sections of the public don’t have.’

Experts have weighed in on exactly how Khalife may have escaped.  

Former Metropolitan Police Detective, Peter Bleksley, said: ‘If this is pre-planned and he is supported by a network of fellow minded criminals then of course he could have cash, shelter, change of clothing, false passport and may already have left the country’.

Mr Bleksley said police will hope he is working alone, because it increases the chances of being spotted and arrested because he would probably have to steal clothing, break into buildings to hide or hunt through bins for food.

Police helicopters were seen circling two major London parks, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, according to locals. 

Data from police helicopter trackers revealed the helicopters had been circling the parks for several hours. 

One onlooker said: ‘There are so many police involved. It’s a huge operation – they must have a good reason to think he might be in there.’

Officers were said to be keeping a close watch on an upstairs flat in Kingston, close to the edge of Richmond Park, where Khalife’s mother and twin sister are understood to have lived until a few years ago.

A neighbour told The Daily Telegraph: ‘A woman lived upstairs who had a son and daughter. The boy would come and go swearing loudly. She moved to Wales roughly three years ago – a year after we moved in.

‘The family were British, of Middle Eastern origin. They didn’t talk to us or anyone else in the street very much that I could see.

Offences allegedly committed by Khalife 

August 2021: Attempting to ‘elicit information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’ at RAF Stafford

January 2023: Placing an article ‘with the intention of inducing in another a belief that the said article was likely to explode or ignite and cause personal injury or damage to property’ at RAF Stafford


‘It’s worrying to think that this young man might head back to this area after escaping from prison.’

Several former classmates of his exclusively told MailOnline that he was a shy and awkward child who was routinely bullied at school. 

One former classmate said: ‘He was a bit awkward and got bullied a bit.

‘He got made fun out of and pushed around quite a bit.’

Another said: ‘He wasn’t super popular. He wasn’t super into music or art that I know of. He would just hand around with friends, just like any other teenager.

‘He was slightly [more intelligent] than average, but not amazingly. 

‘I can’t comprehend that it’s the same guy who did everything they’re accusing him of.’ 

A former inmate who was locked up with him in HMP Wandsworth said he was an ‘odd sausage.’

Chris Jones, a 53-year-old who used to work in HMP Wandsworth’s kitchens with Khalife, told the BBC: ‘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.’

One military source who knew Khalife when he was serving, described him as ‘funny’ and ‘likeable’, but said sometimes he could seem ‘a bit dim’.

But he added: ‘That could have been an act as he’s clearly got enough nouse about him to get away from stuff. Not a typical oddball, there weren’t clear warning signs.’

A former soldier who was friends with him while they were cadets in Dorset told the Sun: ‘He was the first person in his family to sign up to the Army.

‘He was a bit of a loner, he was a big gamer – loved Call of Duty.

‘He was very quiet and studied a lot, the top of the class in the troop, but was also known for being a bit of a drunk and aggressive.

‘Khalife described his role on social media as being a computer specialist with skills including information technology and system administration.’

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told MPs today (pictured) that two urgent reviews would also take place regarding the categorisation and placement of all HMP Wandsworth prisoners and all those in custody charged with terrorism offences

As the manhunt continues, uncomfortable questions about HMP Wandsworth and the whole criminal justice system are being asked.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk demanded an urgent update from Wandsworth’s governor and senior Prison Service bosses after the jail was placed in lockdown.

Sources said the minister received a run-through of ‘all security measures that have been taken in the medium term to ensure the prison is secure as possible’.

There will be further longer-term work on improving Wandsworth’s security checks, a source added.

Labour justice spokesman Shabana Mahmood said: ‘The Conservatives need to urgently explain how they can’t do the basic job of keeping potentially dangerous criminals locked up.

‘It’s right that the police are given space to recapture this suspect. But Rishi Sunak needs to ensure there is no wider risk because his zombie Government lacks grip on the criminal justice system.’

Escape of spy suspect is most serious since IRA breakout in 1994  and fifth since 2017

The escape of Daniel Abed Khalife is the most serious for almost 30 years.

The last major one was from the special secure unit at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire in September 1994, organised by the IRA. 

Five of the six men were serving sentences for IRA activities.

In the jailbreak, two wire fences had been cut through for the prisoners, who are believed to have recruited a prison officer to help them, and they made a rope ladder in the prison workshop to help them over two perimeter walls.

One suspect was stopped before he got outside the prison complex but the other five men got beyond the outer wall and were caught as they tried to follow a disused railway line in the dark.

The breakout was foiled by the courage of unarmed guards who chased and overcame the inmates, despite several shots being fired.


HMP Wandsworth’s wardens came under fire for their alleged role in the audacious escape. 

Prison Officers Association Steve Gillian told Times Radio that Wandsworth has too few perimeter checks because of cutbacks. 

He said: ‘I sort of think there’s not enough security like perimeter checks and things like that are being cut back. Different things. The day to day security. People aren’t getting enough time to do the security task that they should be doing.

‘So, for example, the security of a prison is foremost in my mind, always has been. But getting the time to do the basics, such as like a cell fabric check, right. For instance, I’ve noticed that sometimes prison officers will rush it because there’s not enough time in the day.

‘A fabric check would be checking the locks, the bolts, the bars, the fabric of the cell to ensure it’s not tampered with and so forth.’

He added: ‘It’s been that way for a substantial amount of time, not just at Wandsworth but across the country. So Wandsworth yesterday, it could be another prison tomorrow, unfortunately.’

Top-level figures claimed the prison, one of Britain’s oldest, needs to be shut down. 

The UK’s chief inspector of prisons, Charlie Taylor, outright said that HMP Wandsworth needs to be shut down. 

He told Sky News: ‘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.

Most terror suspects are held at HMP Belmarsh - a notorious category-A prison no one has ever escaped from

‘We’ve actually got a crisis at the moment in prisons just in terms of population and places, so there are only just enough prison places available at the moment for the number of prisoners who are coming in.

‘And of course that puts a huge strain on the system, so in a huge jail like Wandsworth you are getting people in, you are getting them to court, you are getting them back from court and then as soon as they’ve been sentenced, they are being moved onto another jail as quickly as possible.

‘And it is something about that churn that also adds to the general complications and sometimes what feels like chaos in some of those big local prisons like Wandsworth.’  

Meanwhile, UK officials were criticised for not putting the terror suspect in a prison with higher levels of security. 

Experts have said he should have been in Category A Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, which holds the majority of the UK’s terror suspects and has never had an escape. 


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