Armed gang frees 'violent prisoner'

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A "violent and very dangerous" prisoner is on the run after being freed from a security van by an armed gang.

Craig Hickinbottom, who was part way through a sentence of five years and 11 months for armed robbery, was freed from the van after it left a magistrates' court in Redditch, Worcestershire, heading towards Blakenhurst prison.

Two men wearing balaclavas used a firearm to threaten staff in the security van taking the prisoner back to custody after a routine appearance at the court on a charge of driving while disqualified.

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Purcell, of West Mercia Police, said: "He is a violent individual, he is serving a prison sentence for armed robbery, his escape was facilitated by people with a handgun. He is very dangerous."

He said officers were doing all they could to track down the prisoner, who escaped at 1pm yesterday less than 400 yards away from the jail and was last seen heading north up the M5.

Members of the public are asked to contact police or Crimestoppers if they have information on Hickinbottom, but are warned not to approach him.

Hickinbottom is described as a white male, 5ft 11in, with blue eyes and close-cropped ginger hair.