In Brief

How did Pentonville fugitives escape?

Jailbreak of two dangerous prisoners triggers warning from prison governors that worse is to come

gettyimages-2011793.jpg

Two inmates from London's Pentonville prison have broken out of jail by reportedly using diamond-tip cutters and makeshift mannequins.

Matthew Baker, who was found guilty of attempted murder, and James Whitlock, who was on remand after being charged with conspiracy to burgle cash machines, are understood to have used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through their cell bars before scaling an outer perimeter wall, reports The Guardian.

One anonymous male visitor to the prison told reporters that he understood the runaways had folded bed sheets into the shape of mannequins to fool staff into believing they were still asleep during the morning check of their cell.

The men were not required for prison work, which is why they were not reported missing until noon, says the BBC's Danny Shaw.

Staff were expected to conduct a visual check on prisoners at about 7am and, according to Shaw, pillows in their cells were made to look like bodies, but "it's not clear if they had other objects or coverings on them".

Another anonymous female visitor said a prisoner had told her the two men escaped through a cell window on the fifth floor.

"They cut one of the bars and then they came down through the window. They are assuming that it was probably bed sheets and it was at night," she said.

Despite Justice Secretary Liz Truss recently outlining her prison safety and reform plans, the escape has prompted fresh calls for the government to go even further to tackle the deepening crisis in prisons.

Camilla Poulton, chair of the Pentonville Prison Independent Monitoring Board, described the incident as "clearly regrettable", but argued that without public investment there was little more that could be done.

"As we reported in the summer to the Secretary of State for Justice, HMP Pentonville will remain a soft target for contraband and other security breaches as long as its dilapidated windows are in place, notwithstanding the efforts of management and staff," she said.

Prison governors told The Times that staff shortages and overcrowding meant that escapes and violent disturbances would become more common.

"There is a real risk to the core security function of prisons: keeping prisoners within its walls," the Prison Governors Association said.

It added that while the spotlight would no doubt fall on Pentonville's management, the "finger of blame" should be pointed at the government. "The fact is that there is a complete disconnect between the operational frontline and the policy-makers, and countless warnings that the system was creaking was not acted on. It is with profound sincerity, [we hope] that the following prediction is wrong, but this feels very much like the beginning of things to come."

Recommended

Is the BBC biased?
BBC
In Depth

Is the BBC biased?

Quiz of The Week: 20 - 26 November
Boris Johnson leaves No. 10 to attend Prime Minister’s Questions
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 20 - 26 November

‘Hold on to your pennies this Black Friday’
Black Friday sales
Instant Opinion

‘Hold on to your pennies this Black Friday’

Why did Bulb flicker out? 
Bulb Energy Ltd
Why we’re talking about . . .

Why did Bulb flicker out? 

Popular articles

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life
Vladimir Putin and his now ex-wife Lyudmila Putina
Profile

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life

Trump ‘upset his son won’t say he loves him’
Donald and Barron Trump
Tall Tales

Trump ‘upset his son won’t say he loves him’

Woman who married herself divorcing after meeting someone else
A wedding ring
Tall Tales

Woman who married herself divorcing after meeting someone else

The Week Footer Banner