Prison van escaper arrested

Police today arrested a violent and dangerous prisoner who escaped from a prison van on the way back to jail last week.

Craig Hickinbottom, 25, was arrested in Smethwick by West Midlands Police shortly after 6pm yesterday on suspicion of escaping from lawful custody.

Two other men, aged 23 and 24, were also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender unlawfully at large after Hickinbottom was freed from a custody van near to Blakenhurst Prison, in Worcestershire, following a court hearing.

Hickinbottom was serving a sentence of five years and 11 months for armed robbery when he escaped last Wednesday after appearing before magistrates in Redditch.

Police launched a high-profile search for him which even spread nationwide, and all ports were put on alert amid fears he might flee the country.

Hickinbottom was freed after two men wearing balaclavas used a firearm to threaten staff in a security van taking him back to jail.

He was returning from a routine court appearance on a charge of driving while disqualified, and was the sole occupant of the Reliance prison van, which was forced to a halt by an Audi shortly after 1pm.

The van is said to have been less than 400 yards away from the jail when its driver was threatened by the men and forced to release Hickinbottom.

The Audi was then seen travelling north on the M5, and Hickinbottom, who was released from prison on licence in June but recalled a few days later, was known to have both family and criminal connections in the Black Country area of the West Midlands.

An Audi believed to be the car used in the escape was later recovered by police in Blue Rock, Oldbury, in the West Midlands.

The vehicle had been stolen from Sutton Coldfield, also in the West Midlands, last Monday.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said the prisoner was arrested following a joint operation between the force and West Mercia Constabulary.

She said members of the public should be thanked for their co-operation in helping to track down the offender.

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