Chiswick Residents Ask Why Did It Take So Long To Catch Daniel Khalife

Fugitive evaded capture in the area despite numerous sightings

A police car guarding the entrance to Chiswick House Gardens on Saturday morning


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September 10, 2023

This weekend Chiswick was the subject of one of the largest police manhunts in recent years as escaped prisoner Daniel Khalife made his way through the area.

Having escaped Wandsworth prison on Wednesday morning (6 September) he is believed to have found his way to Chiswick either by Thursday or Friday. Some are questioning whether the police were slow in switching the focus of their resources on the Chiswick area after several sightings were reported earlier on Friday.

Despite a huge police presence in the W4 area, he managed to evade capture for four days and was ultimately detained while riding a bike on a towpath on the Grand Union Canal on Saturday morning.

Numerous people across the Chiswick area believe they may have spotted the 21-year-old who had absconded from Wandsworth Prison while he was awaiting trial for terrorism related offences. He is accused of trying to spy for Iran, obtaining information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, and plotting a fake bomb hoax. Having been assigned duties in the kitchen, he strapped himself to the underside of a food delivery van to break out.

The police declined to respond to our request to confirm the accuracy of individual sightings that people had notified us of or had been reported on social media but there is a possibility that Khalife had arrived in Chiswick as early as Thursday evening (7 September).

After a reported sighting of him at Wandsworth Roundabout later in the day after his escape, the focus of the intensive search switched to Richmond Park. The police had disclosed immediately after Khalife absconded that he had connections in the Kingston area and the Royal Park could potentially have provided a route to get there. There was a large police presence during the day including National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopters which were later confirmed as being part of the search for the fugitive.

Commander Dominic Murphy said on Friday evening that police conducted an intelligence-led search at a residential property in the Richmond area. He was unwilling to say whether the address that was being searched in the Richmond borough was linked to Khalife by family or associates.

If Khalife had been in the Richmond area, it appears as if, faced with the massive police presence which included cordons at the exits to Richmond Park, he headed south towards Chiswick. A number of reports told of him being sighted in the Strand on the Green area early on Friday morning.

Gabriella Lewis was quoted by BBC News as saying she spoke to a man sitting on a bench in Chiswick House Garden who she believed was Khalife on Friday morning. She commented that during a conversation in which they talked about the hot weather, he appeared ‘gentle and sweet’ and was affectionate to her dog telling her that he had just come out of the army.

A police van on Dukes Avenue in Chiswick House Gardens
A police van on Dukes Avenue in Chiswick House Gardens

Another person believes he may have seen Khalife in Chiswick in the vicinity of Chiswick Old Cemetery on Friday said, “I wasn’t sure but called 999 and they took all the details. As the advice was to not approach, I didn’t follow him immediately but as my way home was on the route that he took I continued on the way. I spoke to two people coming in the opposite direction who said they has seen the man and it had occurred to them both that it could have been him. I didn’t see him again and when there was no news of an arrest, I just assumed it had not been him. It was only a few hours later when all hell seem to break loose.”

However, despite these reports the police did not seem to switch the focus of their resources to the Chiswick area until Friday evening. Cdr Murphy said the investigation "really took a different course last night (Friday), when we did an intelligence-led search in the Richmond area.

"Whilst we didn't find him at that search, while we were at that search, we had a number of calls from the public over the next hour or two, giving us various sightings of him."

Initially, units on the ground were concentrated on the area around Pumping Station Road and Chiswick Old Cemetery with cars around Chiswick Lane South, Chiswick Mall and Church Street being stopped and asked to provide ID and open their boots.

The police helicopter circled above the Grove Park area in the early hours of Saturday morning from about 3am-5am increasingly centred on Chiswick House Gardens. Speculation was rife in the area and then at around 9am, the Met issued a statement saying that the focus of the search had switched to Chiswick. Police vehicles were parked on Sutton Court Road and Staveley Road and positioned at the gates of Chiswick House Gardens.

Commander Murphy said in a press conference on Saturday morning, “We then deployed officers there and we subsequently had further sightings in the Church Street and Chiswick Mall area, where again we deployed a number of officers.

“We consider those to be confirmed sightings of him. And then as a result of that activity, and clearly a number of other intelligence checks that we were doing at the time, we continued to deploy officers in that area, that’s when he was found this morning at 10.41am.”

Daniel Khalife. Picture: Met Police

A retired police officer who was staying in the area with a relative who also believes she spotted Khalife said, “The amount of resources applied to this search was clearly huge, I saw armed officers, Territorial Support Group units, dog units and sirens were going off in the area almost constantly for a while. The assumption seems to have been that he was set to make a rendezvous with people helping him escape, possible connected with the Tehran regime, but it now looks like he was a tired and hungry young man who could have been more easily caught by a handful of officers on foot following a trail of numerous sightings.”

According to one person who had walked in the park early on Saturday morning, the alarm at the Temple at the amphitheatre was going off.

Police van on Chiswick High Road following the arrest
Police van on Chiswick High Road following the arrest

By about 10.30am, the police seem to have largely moved out of the area and then it was confirmed that a plain clothes police officer had tackled Khalife as he was riding by the canal at about 10:41am. Initially the police said he had been detained in Chiswick but later issued a clarification.

A message on Twitter from Chiswick Police said, “To all the #Chiswick residents who called in with vital information regarding sightings of Daniel Khalife. This ultimately allowed police resources to focus within our community & arrest him #Thankyou.”

Ruth Cadbury said, “I’m still very concerned about the nature of his escape. There are so many questions about how he was able to escape from Wandsworth Prison, why he was in Wandsworth Prison at all as a terrorist suspect.”

When asked to comment the police said they weren't prepared to discuss details of the operation retrospectively.

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