Daniel Khalife, a former soldier who had escaped from a prison kitchen by strapping himself to the underside of a delivery van, has been recaptured.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was arrested in Chiswick, west London, on Saturday, having gone missing in his cook's uniform from HMP Wandsworth in London on Wednesday morning.
The Metropolitan police said they had arrested him just before 11 am on Saturday. He is being held in police custody. The force added: "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."
Rishi Sunak praised efforts by the police and the public in finding Khalife. Speaking to broadcasters at the G20 summit venue in Delhi, India, the prime minister said: "I'm very pleased with the news and my thanks to the police officers for their fantastic work over the past couple of days, but also to the public who came forward with an enormous number of leads to help the police in their inquiries." He added: "This is obviously very welcome news. Again, my thanks to the police but also to the public for their help."
The Home Office minister Chris Philp congratulated the police for their "rapid and effective" work to apprehend the terror suspect. The policing minister wrote on social media: "Great work by the Met Police. Well done for a rapid and effective piece of work to catch this fugitive. An example of policing at its best. Congratulations to all officers involved in this operation."
Residents in the area had heard helicopters overhead throughout the morning. Scotland Yard had released a statement on Saturday morning and said the area of south-west London, just under five miles from the prison from which he escaped, was the focus of their search. Officers said he had changed out of the prison kitchen uniform of a white T-shirt and red and white gingham trousers, into a black baseball cap, black T-shirt, and dark-colored trousers. They added that they believed he had been carrying a small bag or case.
His escape sparked a major police hunt involving 150 counter-terrorism officers, with ports and airports placed on alert and some passengers facing delays as extra checks were carried out. Officers have also been urgently trying to establish whether he had help fleeing from HMP Wandsworth. The jail was put on lockdown after Khalife fled. The escape had a knock-on effect of disrupting court hearings for other defendants on remand at the south London site.
Khalife was being held at the category B prison awaiting trial for allegedly planting a fake bomb and gathering information that might be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK. He has denied the three charges against him. The Bidfood van, the underside of which he is believed to have strapped himself to, left HMP Wandsworth at 7.32 am on Wednesday. Khalife was declared missing at 7.50 am, police were informed at 8.15 am, and the van was stopped at 8.37 am in Upper Richmond Road. By Thursday, police had received more than 50 calls from the public but no confirmed sightings.
Officers then shut off the 2,500-acre Richmond park in south-west London on Friday to search for the former soldier, but did not find him. He grew up in the area and is thought to know it well. They then reported that Khalife had been seen walking away from a food delivery lorry at a roundabout a mile from the jail. A close relative had told the Times that they wanted him to give himself up.
His escape provoked a furious political row with ministers criticizing cuts and staff shortages that have left potentially dangerous inmates in low-security prisons. Khalife's presence in a category B prison when he had been charged with such serious offenses also prompted concerns that other high-risk inmates might not be held in security conditions commensurate with their alleged crimes.
The justice secretary, Alex Chalk, has announced independent investigations into how Khalife escaped, why he was being held in a lower-security prison, and whether other high-risk inmates may need to be moved from the jail. He said reviews would look into the placement and categorization of all inmates at HMP Wandsworth and all held in the custodial estate charged with terrorism offenses. Chalk added: "No stone must be left unturned in getting to the bottom of what happened. Who was on duty that morning? In what roles, ranging from the kitchen to the prison gate? What protocols were in place? Were they followed?"
The ex-serviceman, formerly of Beacon Barracks, Beaconside, Stafford, is also accused of a criminal offense relating to the alleged bomb hoax. It is claimed he placed "three canisters with wires on a desk in his accommodation" with the intention of inducing in another a belief this was "likely to explode or ignite and thereby cause personal injury or damage to property." A trial date for the terrorism charges has been set for 13 November at Woolwich crown court.
Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects.