August 1, 2014
An armed robber serving a life sentence for a series of violent raids has become the third convict to walk out of the same open prison this month.
Police have warned the public not to approach Wayne Whitley, 40, from Manchester, who went missing from HMP Kirkham, Lancashire, 12 days ago.
His escape was revealed by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) today as a raft of bleak figures revealed a leap in the number of on-the-run inmates in the past year.
Whitley, who disappeared on July 19, is the third prisoner to abscond from HMP Kirkham this month. Philip Stephenson, 33, and Gareth Robinson, 24, left the Category D facility earlier in July.
Stephenson was serving a sentence for firearms offences while Robinson was in prison for burglary, Greater Manchester Police said at the time.
Whitley, who has links to areas across Greater Manchester, is a black man of slim athletic build, said a statement from GMP. It is unknown what he was wearing when he left prison.
‘He is not to be approached by members of the public,’ said Detective Inspector Robert Cousen, from GMP’s Serious Crime Division. ‘If anyone sees him or knows of his whereabouts, please contact GMP on 101 immediately.’
Sources who would prefer to pass on information anonymously are asked to contact Crimestoppers.
Det Insp Cousen said: ‘I would also urge Whitley to hand himself in at his nearest police station and to remind people that if anyone is found to be assisting or harbouring Whitley, they too will face being arrested and a possible prison sentence of their own.’
Elsewhere, it emerged that a prison officer had part of his ear bitten off by an inmate during an attack at Nottingham Prison.
The latest prison walk-out emerged as Ministry of Justice figures showed, in the words of shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, ‘violence is up, deaths in custody are up and the number of prisoners going on the run is up.’
A total of nearly 230 inmates escaped or absconded from prisons in England and Wales last year, the figures showed, 10 per cent more than the previous year.
These include 137 who walked out of open prisons, including Michael Wheatley – known as the ‘Skullcracker’ – who sparked a nationwide manhunt after absconding from HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
Two male criminals fled jails and another two escaped prisoner escorts, the figures show. Ninety absconders who have disappeared from prisons in the last decade were still at large at the end of last month, and another 79 have not returned after being granted temporary release since 2004.
Meanwhile the number of attacks on prison staff soared to its highest level for six years – up by more than a tenth to 3,363 in the 12 months to March – prompting suggestions that jails in England and Wales have become ‘places of extreme violence’.
And the number of prisoners who died in custody jumped by nearly a quarter in the year to March to reach its highest level for almost a decade.
A total of 225 inmates died in jail in 2013/14, compared with 181 in the same period the previous year. This was the highest number since 2005.
Critics said the figures were evidence that the country’s prisons were ‘in crisis’.