Daniel Khalife: Ex-prisoner who worked HMP Wandsworth kitchens with absconder says he can see ‘how he escaped’

Daniel Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth in South West London
Daniel Khalife escaped from HMP Wandsworth in South West London

A 56-year-old former prisoner who worked alongside escaped prisoner Daniel Khalife in the kitchens at HMP Wandsworth has shed light on how he might have escaped prison.

The ex-prisoner spent seven years  on remand and worked with the absconder making food for 1,600 inmates. He referred to Khalife as an "odd ball" and said he was stationed in the section which dealt with lorry deliveries.

The former inmate said sometimes only one member of staff was involved in the hand off between lorries and prisoners and they were often occupied so you "get a moment" to climb underneath.

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Daniel Abed Khalife. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Daniel Abed Khalife. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

But he said once the lorry leaves HMP Wandsworth, it passes through two secure areas - where the entire vehicle is "supposed to be searched". He added Khalife was well thought of by the guards, describing him as a "screw’s pet" who was first to work and didn’t mix much with inmates.

He said he was far from a "Rambo character" and "if you said boo to him he’d jump". The painter and decorator from London, who was eventually acquitted, said: "He came to the kitchens and he was a bit of an oddball.

"He was a bit of a loner. You get a choice whether you wanted to stay in the kitchens over lunch and he would always stay - he was always one of the first people in the kitchens too.

"He was like a screw’s pet, he didn’t mix with people too much and he was quiet. It wouldn’t be hard to jump underneath that van. Sometimes you’ve only got one staff walking you across and they might be opening the door and you get a moment. But when the lorry leaves the prison it leaves a secure area and goes through another secure area where they’re supposed to search it."

Khalife was on remand at HMP Wandsworth awaiting trial in relation to terrorism offences.

The former inmate said Khalife "didn’t seem the type" to try and escape and doesn’t believe he had help. He said: "He surprised me. He didn’t seem the type. He just worked and kept himself to himself. He’d never say hello, get his stuff done and walk back out quiet.

"If you said boo to him he’d jump. He doesn’t seem like this Rambo character that they’re making him out to be. I think he’s an opportunist and thought sod it and he could have just rolled the dice and ended up out.

"But maybe he was planning it using his soldier skills, we don’t know. Personally, I can’t imagine any of the staff in that kitchen would have helped him.

"Some of them in there were okay and treated us fair. I can’t say for the prison officers."

He said the conditions at HMP Wandsworth were "horrific" with rat and mice infestations and prisoners not being allowed out of their cells due to staff shortages.

He said: "I had a toothache for six weeks before I was able to see a dentist. Sometimes we weren’t allowed out the cell for three days because of short staff. We had one or two showers a week. I think there was two suicides while I was in there and spice overdose is rife - it’s horrendous.

"There’s dead rats everywhere; mice and cockroaches in your cell. They opened my cell up at 2am with a new cell mate - a schizophrenic drug addict riddled with lice and they just threw him in my cell.

"The guy was lost and he shouldn’t have been in there - he was mentally ill."

The most recent inspection of HMP Wandsworth by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons in June 2022 found "the prison remained very overcrowded, with many prisoners living in very poor conditions."

It added: "Prisoners were moved into dirty, graffiti covered cells, some of which had no windows. There were large amounts of rubbish in exercise yards attracting Vermin. We found that there was no credible plan to make sustainable improvements across the wings."

The ex-prisoner’s revelations come as the Met Police is offering a £20,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the former soldier, who was awaiting trial after allegedly planting a fake bomb at an RAF base and gathering information that might be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK.

The former soldier is believed to have escaped from HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday morning by strapping himself to the bottom of a delivery lorry after leaving the prison kitchen in a cook’s uniform. Strapping was found underneath the delivery lorry which police stopped just over an hour after it left the prison at 7.32am, with officers suggesting Khalife held on to the bottom of the vehicle to escape.

Police have not ruled out the possibility he may have managed to flee the country despite heightened border checks.