Appeal to friends of Pentonville escapees to contact police

Updated: 

Two prisoners who escaped Pentonville Prison are likely being harboured by friends who are helping them to evade capture, police said.

Matthew Baker, 28, and James Whitlock, 31, remain on the run after fleeing the London jail in an audacious escape discovered on Monday.

Scotland Yard said both remained at large on Tuesday evening and it was likely the fugitives were being offered sanctuary.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Heatley said: "It is very likely that they are being assisted by others, possibly with somewhere to stay, clothing and money; in order to evade capture.

"I would appeal to anyone who is helping that they are potentially committing a crime and would encourage them to contact us so that we can bring this matter to a safe and swift conclusion."

Baker was found guilty of attempted murder two weeks ago, having stabbed a man in Dagenham following a dispute. He had been remanded for sentencing later this week.

Whitlock was on remand after being charged with conspiracy to burgle over 19 alleged ATM thefts.

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association claimed on Tuesday that the breakout had followed years of under-investment and staff cuts, and the focus should fall on the Government.

The men - understood to be cellmates - reportedly used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through bars before scaling a perimeter wall. It has been claimed that their beds were stuffed with pillows to make it look like they were asleep.

The incident has sparked fresh scrutiny of the state of prisons in England and Wales following a slew of warnings about safety.

A woman who visited the jail said an inmate had told her the two prisoners escaped through a cell window on the fifth floor. She said it was rumoured they used bed sheets to lower themselves down.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for information about the two men.

HMP Pentonville, which opened in 1842 and holds more than 1,200 adult men, was last year singled out by former justice secretary Michael Gove as "the most dramatic example of failure" in the estate.

Inmate Jamal Mahmoud, 21, died after being stabbed at the jail on October 18 in an attack which left two others injured.

Robert Butler, 30, was charged with his murder on Tuesday. Basana Kimbembi, 34, was charged for the same offence last month and will appear at the Old Bailey on January 23.

In 2012 convicted murderer John Massey spent 48 hours on the run after he escaped from Pentonville by climbing over a wall using a makeshift rope made from bed sheets.

Figures showed that in 2015/16 there were two escapes from prisons, and the number has not exceeded two in any financial year since 2007/08.

Last week Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled a package of measures aimed at reforming prisons. The strategy includes a recruitment drive to add 2,500 new officers to the front line and "no-fly zones" to stop drones dropping drugs and other contraband into prisons.