24 Jan 2012

Police offer £10,000 to catch escaped prisoner

Home Affairs Correspondent

Detectives offer a reward for information on the whereabouts of an “extremely dangerous” murder suspect who escaped from a prison van in Worcestershire on Monday.

John Anslow, a category A prisoner, was being taken from prison to court when a gang of three masked men stopped the vehicle.

They smashed the windows with sledgehammers, punched the driver and allowed Anslow to escape.

Staffordshire Police is the force leading the manhunt and its Detective Superintendent Martin Evans 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.

“We’d continue to remind people that Anslow has been charged with murder and is considered very dangerous. Anyone who sees him should not approach him but should ring 999 immediately. We’re directly appealing to friends or associates of Anslow who know where he might be to ring the incident room on 01785 235051.Alternatively, they can call the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.”

Anslow is the first category A prisoner to escape from custody in over 17 years.

A man has already been arrested on suspicion of assisting with the “well-orchestrated ambush” and is being questioned by police.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke last night ordered an inquiry into how Anslow was able to escape. Two other prisoners were also in the van when Anslow absconded but they did not escape.

Category A prisoners are usually transferred in a high-security prison service van with a police escort, but Anslow was with other inmates in a van run by a private contractor. They were being taken from Hewell Prison in Redditch to Stafford Crown Court on Monday morning.

Police offer £10,000 to catch escaped prisoner (R)

International manhunt

Now the subject of an international manhunt, Anslow has not been seen since his escape at 8.20am on Monday.

His status was updated to category A after he was charged with murdering businessman Richard Deakin last week. He was due to be taken to a high security prison for category A prisoners after his court hearing, rather than Hewell, which is designed for lower risk inmates.

Anslow is the first category A prisoner to escape from custody in over 17 years. This status is reserved for those prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, police or security, and the aim of this status is to make escape impossible.

Property related to the ambush has been found after police searched five homes in the Tipton area of the West Midlands.

Officers are appealing for information about a silver Volkswagen Scirocco that was found abandoned close to the scene. They believe the offenders used it during the incident and then switched to use a Mercedes.

Staffordshire Police said that half a million people had been reached on Facebook as part of the force’s drive for information.

Airports, railway stations and the UK Border Agency have been alerted, as well as security forces overseas. Also known as ‘Skitz’, Anslow has strong connections across England, as well as in other countries. He is described by police as white, 5ft 10in tall, medium build, with short, straight, dark brown hair.