January 25 2012
– Police seeking a murder suspect who was sprung from a prison van offered a £10,000 reward for information yesterday.
Officers fear John Anslow may already have fled to the Continent and ports, railway stations and airports have been put on alert.
The 31-year-old is the first Category A prisoner to escape from custody in 17 years.
Kenneth Clarke has called for an inquiry into the escape of murder suspect John Anslow, left, who police are now hunting
Last night, questions were being asked about why he was being housed in a lower-security prison, HMP Hewell in Redditch, Worcestershire.
Anslow escaped from the van, operated by contractor GEO Amey, on Monday morning, moments after being collected from the jail for a court hearing.
Three balaclava-clad men in a silver VW Scirocco forced the van to stop in a lane, smashing the windscreen with sledgehammers and punching the driver in the process.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has launched an inquiry and described the escape as a serious and well-orchestrated armed ambush.
West Midlands Police arrested a 44-year-old man on suspicion of assisting the suspect during one of five searches of houses in Anslow’s home town of Tipton, near Wolverhampton.
He was still being questioned by detectives last night.
Anslow is one of five suspects charged with the killing of skip hire boss Richard Deakin, 27, who was shot dead in his bed in Chasetown, Staffordshire, in July 2010.
Anslow poses with a dolphin for a family picture. Police have warned members of the public not to approach him
He was en route to Stafford Crown Court for a preliminary hearing into the case when he escaped.
Anslow was arrested and charged with the murder last week, at which point he was classified as category A, 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.
He was due to be sent to a Category-A prison following his court appearance.
Anslow is the first category-A prisoner to escape since lifer Matthew Williams, escaped from Parkhurst Jail on the Isle of White where he had been imprisoned for planting a bomb, administering poisons and arson.
Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper, Converse, described Anslow’s escape as a ‘monumental’ mistake by the prison authorities.
Anslow escaped in a silver VW Scirocco before getting into a silver Mercedes
Police hunting murder suspect John Anslow fear he may have fled abroad
He said: ‘This is deeply embarrassing for the Prison Service, whose primary function is security and none more so than the security of Category A prisoners.
‘Anslow should never have been in a non-secure van, its the kind of cock-up that should never, ever, happen and, make no bones about it, heads should roll for monumental mistakes on this scale.’
Anslow is one of five men charged with the murder of Richard Deakin
Anslow was described as white, 5ft 10in tall, medium build, with short, straight, dark brown hair.
Two other prisoners who were also in the van were not released.
Police believe Anslow and his accomplices switched from the Scirocco to a silver Mercedes in Bromsgrove, three miles away from the scene of the ambush.
Detective Superintendent Martin Evans of Staffordshire Police, the force leading the hunt, said: ‘Our investigation into finding escaped prisoner John Anslow is continuing to move quickly as we follow several lines of inquiry.
‘Staffordshire Police are offering a £10,000 reward for information that leads to Anslow’s arrest and return to prison. We’re hoping that this sizeable reward will encourage those who know where Anslow might be to come forward. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.’
Following Mr Deakin’s murder, police aired footage of his killer calmly entering the garden of his home, shortly after his fiancée, Megan, had taken their two children. to school.
The masked men smashed the windscreen of the GEO Amey escort vehicle before threatening the driver with a knife
– Lee Cain