UK transport hubs advised that continued additional security checks could see increased passenger wait times as the manhunt for HMP Wandsworth escapee Daniel Abed Khalife entered its second day on Thursday.
Just before 8am on Wednesday, Khalife, 21, escaped from HMP Wandsworth in south-west London. It is believed he fled the prison by breaking out of a kitchen and clinging to the underside of a delivery van while in a chef’s uniform.
The ex-soldier was awaiting trial on charges of planting a fake bomb at his military base and gathering information that might be useful to terrorists or enemies of the UK.
Following the escape, airline passengers yesterday complained of lengthy queues and travel disruptions at major UK airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester and Glasgow, as staff searched for the suspected terrorist.
Though excessive queues were not reported by airports on Thursday, and general travel guidance remains unchanged, Heathrow advised that passengers could continue to see increased wait times as a result of enhanced security.
“Due to additional security checks required, waiting times for departing passengers may be longer than usual,” a Heathrow spokesperson said.
“Heathrow is operating as normal, passengers are advised to arrive no earlier than usually recommended and to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.”
Birmingham airport said that despite “added vigilance”, customers should expect nothing out of the ordinary.
Glasgow airport also told i that it was “business as usual” on Thursday, while Gatwick rebuked claims of reported lengthier wait times for passengers traveling today due to enhanced security.
Meanwhile, passengers departing from the Port of Dover reportedly experienced delays beginning Thursday morning, while Kent Police confirmed junctions eight and nine of the M20 were temporarily shut on Thursday due to the enhanced security checks – and to allow freight heading for mainland Europe to queue on the empty section of the motorway.
A statement released by the UK’s busiest international ferry port on Thursday morning said: “Due to a police matter, there are currently enhanced checks on outbound traffic at the Port of Dover and other portals within the UK.
“Please be advised this is currently resulting in some delays at the Port. However, our standard travel guidance remains unchanged and we will keep passengers updated if they can expect any alteration to their journey.”
In a statement on Wednesday following Khalife’s escape, the Metropolitan Police said: “An alert was issued by the Counter Terrorism Command earlier today in relation to Khalife through established operational briefing channels to relevant UK police and law enforcements agencies, including those at UK ports and borders.”
Neither the Met nor major airports commented on how long extra security measures could be expected to be in place.
An insider at MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence agency, told i that Khalife is alleged to have been passing secrets to a hostile state and acting on the orders of an enemy to the UK.
The UK intelligence source told i that the most serious offences Khalife is accused of were related to his work for a hostile state rather than any immediate physical threat he posed to the public. The source wouldn’t name the state in question, citing national security.
However, a report in the Daily Mail said Mr Khalife has been accused of spying for Iran.