Escaper seen `pacing out' yard

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The Independent Online
The potential for the Parkhurst escapes to have been avoided if a clear series of warnings had been heeded added to the pressure yesterday on Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to offer a full explanation, writes James Cusick.

However, a further clouding of the line of responsibility came when it emerged that Parkhurst prison officers had issued a warning to the governor, John Marriot, four days before the break-out. The officers noticed that Matthew Williams, one of three whofinally scaled the wall on Tuesday night, had been "pacing out" the prison yard.

Williams - sentenced to life for conspiring to cause explosions, arson, and poisoning - was also seen checking the movements of staff. The concern was passed to the governor's office and is understood to have been personally acknowledged by Mr Marriot.

Two days later, the verbal concern was hardened with a written letter to the governor by some of the senior prison staff. The letter said that, in addition to worry over the behaviour of Williams, it was believed items of prison staff uniforms were missing and that a "key compromise" (jargon for an important key copied or missing) had also occurred.

No lock change was ordered by Mr Marriot. Staff also believed the security regime around Williams could also have been changed from category A "low risk" to category A "high risk". The move would have increased the surveillance around Williams. No chang

e in his categorisation was ordered.

Mr Howard claimed on Wednesday that recommendations for improving security at Parkhurst, after an inspection made in October by Judge Stephen Tumim, were followed. This was challenged yesterday by staff. Through the Prison Officers Association, it was c

l aimed that no "perceptible change in the searching regime at Parkhurst had occurred simply because there is not enough staff to implement such a change".

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