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Global hunt for dangerous fugitive

An "extremely dangerous" prisoner is at the centre of an international manhunt after a gang armed with sledgehammers ambushed a prison van.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke ordered a full inquiry into how murder suspect John Anslow was able to escape following a "well-orchestrated armed ambush" despite being classed as a highly dangerous category A prisoner.

He is the first category A prisoner to escape from custody in more than 17 years.

Three masked men stopped the van, smashed its windows and punched its driver as it was taking inmates from Hewell Prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court. Instead of being transferred in a high-security prison service van with a police escort, Anslow was with other inmates in a van run by a private contractor.

His status was only upgraded after he was charged with the murder of businessman Richard Deakin last week. He was due to be taken to a category A prison, rather than back to Hewell Prison which was designed for lower risk category B, C and D inmates, after his court hearing, but he was sprung from custody at around 8.20am.

The inquiry will consider Anslow's "security categorisation" and the "management of the prisoner so that we can learn lessons for the future", Mr Clarke said.

Category A status is reserved for those prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, police or security, and for whom the aim is to make escape impossible.

Detective Superintendent Martin Evans, of Staffordshire Police which is leading the hunt, said Anslow, who was also known as Skitz, has strong connections across the country, including London, as well as overseas. Officers are working with all police forces, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and authorities abroad to track him down, and all airports and railway stations were alerted.

Detectives warned Anslow is "extremely dangerous" and should not be approached by the public. He was described as white, 5ft 10in tall, medium build, with short, straight, dark brown hair.

Police later executed five search warrants in the West Midlands and arrested a man in connection with the suspected killer's escape. Detectives leading the investigation carried out the warrants alongside teams of armed officers at a string of addresses in the Tipton area.


From Belfast Telegraph