Pair on run after prison van raid

Two men were being hunted by police tonight after they were sprung from a prison van by an armed gang.





Kirk Bradley and Tony Downes were being taken to Liverpool Crown Court, where they are on trial, when the security van they were in was targeted in a daring morning rush-hour raid.



Police issued their photos today but members of the public were warned not to approach the pair if they are spotted and instead call police.



Both men were in the van when it was attacked on Trinity Way on the edge of Manchester city centre shortly after 8.30am today.



Bradley and Downes, both 25 and from Liverpool, are accused of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to commit criminal damage with intent to endanger life.



They were taken out of the security van by "a number of armed, masked men", police said.



The gang made off in a Saab car, which was found abandoned in Barrow Street in Islington, Salford, a short time later.



One security guard was taken to hospital but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.



Downes, of no fixed address, and Bradley, of Altfinch Close, Stockbridge Village, Merseyside, were part way through their trial with a number of other co-accused.



A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: "Officers are appealing for the public's assistance in tracing these two offenders, but would urge anyone who knows of their whereabouts not to approach the pair."



Detective Sergeant Paul Copplestone, from Greater Manchester Police, said: "We are sure that this incident was witnessed by many people at a very busy time of the morning. The Saab was driven off towards the M602 motorway.



"We would urge witnesses to contact us."



Police cordoned off a section of a bridge on Trinity Way, close to the intersection between the M6 towards Birmingham and the M602 towards Liverpool.



A white Leyland DAF G4S security van was left in the middle of the bridge with its driver's side door open and a police car parked behind it.



The road is a main artery around the city centre and normally busy with traffic at the time the raid took place.



Police forensic experts examined both the van and the Saab as the hunt for the missing pair continued.



The Saab was found down a narrow street a mile away, abandoned by the side of a primary school.



In May, three prisoners escaped from a security van in Lancashire when they climbed out through the skylights in their individual cells inside the vehicle.



They were on the A59 in Burscough, being taken from HMP Garth to different prisons on Merseyside.



Two were quickly caught but convicted robber John Paul William, 35, managed to evade the authorities for seven days and was spotted on CCTV on a bus in Manchester.



In May last year, Richard Smith, 29, from Salford, who was charged with conspiracy to commit arson, was sprung from a prison van outside Salford Magistrates' Court.



He fled to Spain but was arrested in Alicante and extradited back to the UK last November.



Anyone with information about today's incident is asked to call Merseyside Police on 0151 777 5699 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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