Huge manhunt launched after two inmates sprung as prison van ambushed


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The Independent Online

Police launched a massive manhunt today for two men who went on the run after being sprung from a prison van.

Ryan MacDonald, 20, and Stevie McMullen, 31, were freed in Salford by three men - one believed to have been armed - who attacked the van as it made its way to Manchester Crown Court where they were due to be sentenced.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan told a press conference that both men "represent a risk to the community, in particular Stevie McMullen", urging anyone who saw them to call 999 immediately.

"I am concerned about them being on the loose, they are responsible for some serious offences," he said.

"I don't think they pose a risk unless approached so it's really important that if anyone sees them they contact us straightaway."

A man and a woman are in custody after being arrested on the Ordsall Estate, where the Saab car used to take the men from the scene was later abandoned, he added.

McMullen was due to be sentenced for conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit arson, possession of a firearm, and other offences, with Mr Mulligan saying "he in particular is someone we need to trace as soon as possible".

MacDonald was due to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit robbery.

A third person in the van carried on to court, police said.

The van came under attack shortly after 9am in Regent Road, Salford, a main road into Manchester about half a mile from the city's Crown Court and Strangeways prison.

One of the men who sprang the prisoners may be armed with a sawn-off shotgun, which was used to smash the windscreen of the van during the attack, Mr Mulligan added.

The Saab was abandoned in Regent Road, near a roundabout at the end of the M602. Three men ran off on to the Ordsall Estate and the other two got on to a motorcycle, later found abandoned in Thurlow Street in Salford Quays.

"It's very concerning, obviously," Mr Mulligan told reporters. "We have got a major investigation in place, we've got increased police presence in the area and a major investigation is ongoing to recover these people back into custody and also find those responsible for the offences."

He went on: "Shortly after the escape we've actually detained two people on the Ordsall Estate - a male and a female.

"I must stress these aren't the two individuals that escaped from the prison van but we believe or suspect that they may be involved in the actual escape. They're currently in custody at the moment.

"We do have in place a major investigation, we are following all lines of inquiry. What I will promise is we will return these people to custody."

The brazen rush-hour raid took place just off the same stretch of road as a similar attack on another prison van.

Liverpool gangsters Tony Downes and Kirk Bradley escaped in an ambush in July 2011 as they were being taken from Strangeways jail to their trial al Liverpool Crown Court.

The van ambushed today was operated by prisoner escort firm GEOAmey and was on its way to court from privately-run HMP Altcourse near Liverpool.

The guards were left "very shaken" but uninjured after the incident, police said.

Altcourse is run by G4S, the firm behind the Olympics security fiasco, and was the first privately designed, constructed, managed and financed prison in the UK.

The Category B jail takes young offenders and adult male prisoners either sentenced or on remand from courts in Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales and can hold up to 1,324 prisoners.

GEOAmey runs some 12,500 prisoner movements a week in its fleet of around 500 purpose-built custodial vehicles, which come in different sizes with either two, four, six or 10 cells.

All of the firm's vehicles contain closed-circuit television (CCTV).