By Isabella Rattan
As any inmate who has gained national attention after escaping a high security prison can testify, it’s relatively absurd to plead not-guilty to a mad dash from the cells. But not for Daniel Khalife. The 22-year old, who escaped from HMS Wandsworth prison on the 6th of September, and has subsequently been re-captured. He appeared to the court via video call from a new higher security category A prison in order to plead Not Guilty. But who is he, and why was he in prison in the first place?
Daniel Khalife is an ex-British Army soldier who grew up in Kingston-Upon-Thames and went to Teddington School, just a half an hour drive from St Augustine’s. Khalife first started his training for the army in 2018, and went on to become a network engineer at the Royal Corps of Signals, based at Beacon Barracks, Stafford. This was where he was charged for the first of many misdemeanours.
The first accusation he received was for the construction of a fake bomb, made up of three canisters with wires, with the intent of leading “another to the belief the item was likely to explode or ignite” – essentially tricking someone they were about to be blown to smithereens.
His next accusation was one count of illegal eliciting of personal information about members of the armed forces from a Ministry of Defence information system, information that could be extremely useful to a potential terrorist.
Finally, he was charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act, over a period that lasted not one year, not two, but 3 years of illegal communications. Between May 2019 and January 2022, Khalife collected and distributed information that could be both “directly and indirectly useful to an enemy”. This ‘enemy’ is understood to be Iran, connected to Khalife through his father, who is believed to be Iranian.
Khalife denied all of these offences, and had been due to stand trial at Woolwich Crown Court on the 13th of November shortly after he made his ‘alleged’ break for freedom.
But now for details of his prison breakout. It is widely believed that he made his daring escape by clinging to the bottom of a food truck with homemade strappings. He did this on the morning of the 6th of September, and 20 minutes after his departure, the alarm was raised for a missing prisoner. After parting ways with the truck at Wandsworth roundabout, Khalife managed to go unnoticed for a lengthy 2 days before being spotted in Chiswick on the night of the 8th. Subsequently, he roamed West London until 10:40am of the 9th before being pulled off his bike and arrested by a plain clothes anti-terrorism officer near Rowden Road, Northolt, dashing the hopes of anyone looking forward to that £20k reward.
He had made it 14 miles away from the prison.
In a press release on Saturday evening Commander Dominic Murphy said: “Our priority following Khalife’s escape was to find him and bring him back to custody, which, thanks to the help of the public, and the excellent work by our officers, we have achieved…We are now pivoting our investigation towards the circumstances of his escape and whether there may have been any other persons involved and that investigation continues.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Rory Stewart, a former Conservative prison officer who suggested on The Rest Is Politics podcast that it was hard to understand if he was helped to escape or did so due to poor security.
However, in an extraordinary final twist to the prison break story, Khalife totally denies his blatant offence, pleading Not Guilty to attempted escape.