Armed robber among ninety prisoners on run from Ford open prison

Armer robber David Blood, who police say may pose a threat to the public, is the latest criminal to go on the run from HMP Ford

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The Independent Online

Ninety prisoners, including an armed robber and a convicted murderer, are on the run from an open prison in Sussex – some of who have been missing for years, it has emerged.

HMP Ford near Arundel, West Sussex, with some other open jails, has been at the centre of a series of high-profile disappearances in the past few weeks.

Armed robber, David Blood, 48, who police said may pose a threat to the public, has become the latest criminal to go on the run from HMP Ford. He was serving a life sentence when he absconded from the Category D prison some time between 8.30am and 1pm yesterday.

The figures issued by Sussex Police showing that 90 Ford inmates are at large come as violent robber Simon Rhodes-Butler, 37, handed himself into police last night after absconding from the jail last month.

This week it emerged that a public appeal by the force to help trace murderer Robert Donovan, 57, had only been made four years after he walked out from Ford.

In November, Sussex Police discovered a number of cases where inmates who had fled Ford that had not been reviewed. A team was set up specifically to review each case following this revelation.

A police statement said 23 absconders from Ford have been located and arrested since November.

The statement added: "We decided to make a public appeal for Robert Donovan as although we had no information that he was an immediate danger to the public, his original crime was so serious that it was important for him to be returned to custody as a priority.

"In recent years an average of 23 prisoners have absconded from Ford annually. There are currently 90 people missing from Ford.

"Some have been missing for a matter of weeks but others have been missing for a number of years. We are focused on returning each and every one of those people to prison."

The Ministry of Justice said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has ordered major changes to tighten up temporary release processes and open prison eligibility.

It was the case of "Skullcracker" Michael Wheatley which prompted ministers to launch a major review of the case, including a broader assessment of the release on temporary licence (ROTL) process.

He was jailed for life for a raid on a building society while on the run from HMP Standford Hill in Kent, the second time he has been jailed for holding up the same branch.