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Who is Daniel Abed Khalife? Everything we know about terror suspect who escaped prison

Who is Daniel Abed Khalife? Everything we know about terror suspect who escaped prison

A mammoth four-day police search for terror suspect Daniel Abed Khalife who escaped HMP Wandsworth in south-west London ended with his arrest in Chiswick on Saturday.

The 21-year-old ex-soldier, who escaped jail on Wednesday and was at large for around 75 hours, was pulled off a pushbike by a plain-clothes officer just before 11am.

He was arrested in Rowdell Road on the canal towpath after he was spotted riding the bike. Upon being detained, Khalife was fully co-operative and handcuffed, Metropolitan Police said.

Khalife is believed to have escaped, while wearing a chef’s uniform, by strapping himself to the underside of a food-delivery truck.

Forty prisoners have been moved out of Wandsworth prison “out of an abundance of caution” following his escape and “additional resources” provided to the prison, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said.

Here is everything we know about Khalife and his escape.

Who is Daniel Abed Khalife?

Khalife is a former soldier who was previously stationed at the MoD’s Beacon Barracks in Stafford.

The barracks are home to the Royal Corps of Signals 1st Signal Brigade, the Defence Electronics Agency, the RAF Joint Helicopter Command’s Tactical Supply Wing, and No 22 Group Air Force cadets.

An unnamed close relative told the Times that Khalife was a “very, very intelligent, easy-going, and kind boy” who had changed in the past year.

Khalife described his role on social media as being a computer specialist with skills including information technology and system administration, according to the Telegraph.

He is understood to have been raised in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London. His mother and twin sister lived there in a flat near Richmond Park until a few years ago, The Telegraph reported.

He was being held at HMP Wandsworth awaiting trial for planting a fake bomb and gathering information that might be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK.

According to reports, he is accused of gathering information for Iran.

He is accused of eliciting or trying to elicit information that could be useful for a terrorist on August 2, 2021, and breaching the Official Secrets Act by gathering information that could be useful to an enemy between May 1, 2019, and January 6, 2022.

The ex-serviceman is also accused of a criminal offence relating to the alleged bomb hoax.

He has denied all charges.

It is claimed that he placed “three cannisters with wires” on a desk in his MoD lodgings on January 2 this year, causing others to fear an explosion.

He was discharged from the Army on May 22, after being charged with criminal offences.

Khalife appeared at the Old Bailey in late July, via videolink from HMP Wandsworth, when he denied the charges.

At his appearance, it was said Khalife took soldier details from the MoD personnel files which would be “useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

A trial date for Khalife had been set for November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court.

In the meantime, he was being held at HMP Wandsworth — a south London jail that is one of the largest in the UK, with a capacity of 1,371.

It is a Category B prison, meaning it has the second-highest level of security.

Khalife was previously held at Category A prison HMP Belmarsh in Thamesmead, before being transferred to Wandsworth, according to reports.

HMP Wandsworth in London, from which former soldier Daniel Abed Khalife escaped (Yui Mok / PA Wire)
HMP Wandsworth in London, from which former soldier Daniel Abed Khalife escaped (Yui Mok / PA Wire)

How did he escape?

Khalife was reportedly working in the prison kitchens, when he escaped dressed in his cook’s uniform at 7.50am on Wednesday.

He is understood to have left the prison premises by strapping himself to the underside of a food-delivery van.

The Bidfood delivery lorry left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32am on Wednesday. He was declared missing at 7.50am.

Police were then notified at 8.15am and the van was stopped on Upper Richmond Road near to the junction of Carlton Road at 8.37am.

Strapping was found on the underside of the lorry, with officers suggesting Khalife held on to the underside of the vehicle to escape.

How was he found?

A nationwide search was launched on Wednesday for Khalife, involving more than 150 of the Met’s counter-terrorism officers and staff, before his arrest on Saturday.

The Met said they received more than 100 calls from the public.

Police scoured Richmond Park in south-west London on Thursday night and into Friday.

On Saturday, the Met moved the search to the Chiswick area following overnight sightings.

Khalife was arrested by a plain-clothes officer at 10.41am in Rowdell Road on the canal towpath while he was riding a bike.

Commander Dominic Murphy, the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism chief, said Khalife was pulled off a bike by the officer who arrested him.

“Upon being detained by the officer, he was fully co-operative and handcuffed and arrested,” he added.

Khalife is now being held in police custody.

The Met said: “We would like to thank the public and media for their support throughout our investigation to locate Khalife and we will provide a further update on his arrest in due course.”

Chiswick resident Brenda MacDonald said she had seen “loads of vans” and helicopters as police searched the area.

The 78-year-old told the PA news agency: “I guessed it was something to do with (Khalife) because of him landing in Wandsworth. It is not far to get here.

“They have got to catch him because it was silly enough that they let him get out.”

Ports and airports had been placed on alert. They were asked to carry out additional security measures, resulting in delays being reported across the UK, including at Heathrow airport, Manchester airport, and the Port of Dover.

Why was Daniel Khalife in prison?

He is a British citizen whose father is believed to be Iranian and was due to face court in November.

Khalife trained as a soldier for the British Army before he went on to join the Royal Corps of Signals as a computer-network engineer — but in January was charged on three counts of abusing his position.

He was accused of creating fake bombs in his Army barracks and of “eliciting personal information from a Ministry of Defence information system” about members of the armed forces while he was serving in August 2021.

It was alleged that he had leaked said information which was deemed “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

Finally, he was accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act over a three-year period, between May 2019 and January 2022.

It is alleged he collected or shared intel that could be “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy” — it is understood this enemy was thought to be Iran.

The former soldier has denied all charges and is due to face a six-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court on November 13.

‘Extremely concerning’ escape sparks probe

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said around 40 Category B inmates at Wandsworth prison have been moved out amid an investigation into how Khalife escaped.

He added: “Additional resources have of course gone into Wandsworth, so there’s additional governor support, a former governor with particular expertise in security.”

Mr Chalk said an investigation has suggested that HMP Wandsworth did have the correct security protocols and staff in place at the time of the escape.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on Friday suggested police are investigating whether Khalife’s escape was aided by someone, or people from inside the prison.

He described the incident as “clearly pre-planned” and “extremely concerning”.

Asked if the Met is looking into the possibility it was an “inside job”, Sir Mark said: “It is a question. Did anyone inside the prison help him? Other prisoners, guard staff? Was he helped by people outside the walls or was it simply all of his own creation?”

Labour has demanded the Government explains how the escape could have occurred.

A government minister on Thursday confirmed an investigation has been launched into how Khalife escaped and why he was not being held in a higher security facility.

Wandsworth prison’s performance was rated a “serious concern” and watchdogs had issued a string of warnings about the jail in the past year before Khalife escaped.

The Victorian jail holds about 1,600 defendants appearing at London courts and offenders due to be released, in five wings.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said “in an ideal world” the jail would be shut, but “there are only just enough prisons” for the population of inmates.

Mr Taylor told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “When you find a prison like Wandsworth, it really needs closing. Ultimately, it’s not a suitable prison.”