Murderer uses grappling hook in prison escape

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The Independent Online

A murderer serving two life sentences was on the run last night after escaping from jail by sawing through his cell bars and scaling a 30ft wall with a rope ladder.

William Todd broke out of Winchester prison in Hampshire three hours before dawn yesterday, using a rope ladder and grappling hook that friends are believed to have thrown over the wall for him to find.

He had served three months of his sentences for attempting to murder his former business associate and friend Arthur de Sousa, and shooting dead de Sousa's bodyguard, Alex Griffin. Police warned people not to approach Todd. Ferry ports and airports were put on alert and police began a nationwide search.

Todd was convicted at Reading Crown Court in September for the shootings in Pangbourne, Berkshire, in which Mr de Sousa, 33, was shot five times in the head, body and arms, and left permanently disfigured. Mr Griffin died after he was shot three times in the chest and abdomen.

Mr de Sousa has demanded police protection, his father, Judice, said last night. "He's terrified, we all are. The police have been around to see him but he hasn't got any protection. I'm also scared to leave my wife alone in my house. Todd is obviously a dangerous man."

His escape also alarmed residents in Pangbourne, where one said: "We're still recovering from the shooting last year. We don't want any repeats and hope to God that this man is caught and next time locked up properly."

The Prison Service has started an investigation into security failings at Winchester jail, where there has not been an escape for 40 years, focusing on how Todd could smuggle a saw into his cell undetected, break through a wire mesh fence in the exercise yard, run 100 yards to the perimeter wall and scale it without being seen.

The alarm was raised only when Michael Pead, a security guard working at a nearby garden centre, saw Todd clambering over the wall. "I ran over to where he was, dialling 999 on my phone. By the time I got there he was gone. On the ground was a grappling hook attached to a piece of rope, a broken rope ladder and a balaclava. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, it was a complete shock," Mr Pead said.

Todd is described as of dark complexion, 5ft 11in, with a bullet shaped face and a 3in burn scar on his right forearm.