Bugged phones, a Richmond ‘safe house’ and a dramatic canal path arrest: How MI5, MI6 and anti-terror police combined forces to swoop on Daniel Khalife just 12 miles from Wandsworth prison four days after he escaped
Britain’s most wanted man was captured yesterday after spies bugged the phones of people linked to the fugitive.
Security sources told The Mail on Sunday that intercepted communications led dozens of police officers to a house in Richmond, South-West London, where they were convinced 21-year-old ex-soldier Daniel Khalife was hiding.
They missed him, possibly by minutes. But the terror suspect’s four days on the run ended just hours later – at 10.41am yesterday – when an undercover officer pulled him from a bike as he cycled along a canal towpath. ‘It’s not me! I ain’t done anything,’ cried Khalife, who was carrying a sleeping bag and a Waitrose bag filled with food and drink.
The manhunt, which at one stage involved ‘direct oversight’ from the Home Secretary, was hailed as the first major success for the Government’s new counter-intelligence nerve centre, which brings together specialist police officers and spies from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ under the same roof.
Last night, detectives were questioning Khalife at a West London police station.
Footage obtained by The Sun showed the moment Daniel Khalife was arrested
A national manhunt was launched for Daniel Abded Khalife, a former soldier suspected of terror offences. He escaped on September 6
The terror suspect’s four days on the run ended just hours later – at 10.41am yesterday – when an undercover officer pulled him from a bike as he cycled along a canal towpath
Police will now intensify their hunt for possible accomplices – both those who might have helped him escape Wandsworth Prison on Wednesday morning by clinging to the underside of a lorry, and those who helped him evade capture while at large.
This newspaper can also reveal that two guards at Wandsworth Prison have been suspended following his dramatic escape. It is understood both were involved in overseeing the exit of the Bidfood catering vehicle from the prison grounds.
Footage shot shortly after Khalife’s arrest showed the suspect in a white T-shirt and dark shorts, handcuffed and sitting on the ground alongside a canal at Greenford, West London, 12 miles from the prison. He will now be held at Belmarsh maximum-security jail.
One witness said the police officer ‘threatened to shoot him [Khalife] in the head and then handcuffed him. He seemed all right. He was laughing’. The witness added that 50 to 60 police officers, mostly in plain clothes, turned up shortly afterwards.
Is is understood a warrant for the eavesdropping operation was sought after the police made a significant breakthrough on Friday.
After the raid on the Richmond address early yesterday the trail briefly went cold, only to resume at around 2am when there was a confirmed sighting across the Thames in Spencer Road, Chiswick, less than three miles from Richmond.
‘By now time was running out for him,’ said a source close to the investigation. ‘It was only a matter of time.’
There were other sightings in Church Street near the 65-acre grounds of Chiswick House, an 18th Century stately home. Hundreds of police officers and sniffer dogs began swarming the area as helicopters clattered overhead.
The MoS has learned that at 10.12am yesterday Adrian Radford-Shute, a former head of security at Chiswick House, called the Met and urged officers to review footage captured on the villa’s sophisticated network of CCTV cameras.
‘The only place you can get off the street in that area is Chiswick House and gardens – it’s a magnet because it’s huge,’ Mr Radford-Shute said.
‘When I became aware of where he was on Church Street, I alerted police to this very high grade [security] system and that they should interrogate it immediately.’
Police searched the grounds but found no trace. Elsewhere in Chiswick officers checked driveways, vehicles and back gardens and warned the public to be ‘vigilant’.
Eventually, Khalife was spotted six miles away, riding a bike alongside the Grand Union Canal in Greenford. It is thought police had received intelligence he was in the area or heading there.
A plain clothes officer, part of the massive dragnet, recognised him and, running alongside him, dragged him off the bike. A witness said: ‘He cuffed him and held him down on the floor at gunpoint. But Khalife tried to protest his innocence… Within a few minutes, three or four plain clothes officers arrived and then a few minutes after that a small army of them arrived and taped off the path.’
Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: ‘He was fully cooperative and handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of being unlawfully at large and taken to a police station where he was re-arrested for escaping from lawful custody.’ When asked why it took the police so long to arrest him, despite a manhunt involving hundreds of detectives and port staff, Mr Murphy said: ‘I don’t recognise the fact that 75 hours is a long time to find somebody unlawfully at large from a prison.’
Daniel Khalife (pictured), a former soldier in the 22 Signal Regiment, was on remand at HMP Wandsworth ahead of his six-week terror trial
Police in Chiswick surround Fullers Brewery in Chiswick, West London, after an early morning search for missing fugitive Khalife
Mr Murphy praised the public for their help. Between Friday night and yesterday, his detectives received hundreds of calls and vital clues were passed on. It was the first high-profile manhunt carried out via the new Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre (CTOC), a multi-million-pound nerve centre at a classified location in West London.
Mr Murphy said: ‘This was the first big operation they did And it shows this is working because we’re working very closely.’
He added: ‘If anybody supported for or assisted Daniel Khalife, either before his escape, during, or after, we will be looking for those individuals and we will bring them to justice.’
Last night a Met source said: ‘Now that the manhunt is over, we are pivoting the investigation into finding out if anyone helped him, and, if so, we will bring those people to justice, no matter who they are.’
Scotland Yard are investigating whether the escape was an inside job involving corrupt guards while the Government has ordered an inquiry into how it happened.
Our revelation that prison staff have been suspended will heap pressure on Katie Price, governor at the Victorian jail, which holds about 1,600 inmates.
It also emerged yesterday that Wandsworth’s head of security and safety is under investigation for alleged misconduct. Bobby Cunningham was suspended a few months ago over unrelated allegations about his behaviour.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, a former soldier suspected of terror offences who escaped from prison on Wednesday morning
Police in Chiswick surround Fullers Brewery in Chiswick, West London, after an early morning search for terror suspect Daniel Khalife, who was arrested around 11am today
After Khalife’s escape, Scotland Yard had offered a reward of up to £20,000 for information leading to his capture. Police recovered CCTV of the suspect making his getaway after he slipped out from his hiding place underneath the lorry when it stopped at a roundabout, barely a mile from HMP Wandsworth.
In a major breakthrough, a member of the public came forward saying they saw a man fitting Khalife’s description near the south entrance to the roundabout just after his escape at 7.32am on Wednesday.
Sources have claimed Khalife had access to a mobile phone behind bars, raising the prospect that the illicit device may have been smuggled in by a member of staff.
Using the phone, Khalife would have been able to view the prison layout using Google Earth to aid his escape. He may also have been able to see detailed plans of the prison, which are publicly available on the local council’s website.
Officials have refused to comment on whether he had access to a mobile phone, but Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the escape was clearly planned.
When asked if police were looking into whether it was an ‘inside job’, the Commissioner told LBC: ‘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? This is really concerning.
He also said he was surprised that a suspected terrorist was not in a Category A prison while awaiting his trial in November.
He added: ‘It does seem odd that someone who’s charged with terrorist offences and offences linked to undermining the state is not in a high-security [facility].’
Chairman of the Commons justice committee Bob Neill said the inquiry into how Khalife escaped must consider whether he was helped from the inside or by foreign agents.
He said the straps under the lorry which helped Khalife escape ‘didn’t attach themselves by magic, so that does indicate planning.’
Additional reporting by Sam Merriman and Josh White.