Two men escape in armed prison van ambush

Ryan MacDonald and Stevie McMullen were freed as they were travelling through rush-hour traffic in Salford

An armed gang rammed a prison van and sprung two men being taken from a privately-run jail for a court appearance.

Police were tonight hunting for Ryan MacDonald, 20, and Stevie McMullen, 31, who were freed as their van drove through rush-hour traffic in Salford on their way to Manchester Crown Court.

McMullen – on trial for conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit arson and possession of a firearm – was singled out by police as a potential danger. MacDonald was to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Witnesses said three men wearing balaclavas attacked the GEOAmey van, and one smashed the windows with a sawn-off shotgun to free the men. The guards in the van were left shaken but uninjured.

“I am concerned about them being on the loose, they are responsible for some serious offences,” said Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan.

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

They were believed to have been driven off in a Saab getaway car which was later found abandoned in the nearby Ordsall Estate in Salford.

Three men were seen running into the estate while two others jumped on a motorbike which was later found abandoned.

A woman, 28, and man, 24, were later arrested on the estate in connection with the escape but there was no sign of the two escapees, police said.

The men were being taken from Altcourse prison in Liverpool, a jail run by G4S, and were being taken to Manchester Crown Court by GEOAmey, a private company responsible for moving thousands of prisoners every week. A third man in the van did not escape.

The raid was close to the same stretch of road where Liverpool gangsters Tony Downes and Kirk Bradley escaped in an ambush in July 2011 as they were being taken from Strangeways jail, in Manchester, to their trial at Liverpool Crown Court. They were arrested the following year after fleeing to Holland.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions