Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Prison officers call for public inquiry after killer is found

A KILLER who went on the run while on a Christmas shopping trip from Broadmoor spent almost four days in a north London hospital before being apprehended by police.

Anthony Pilditch, 47, was arrested on Wednesday night in a ward at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, where he was receiving treatment for a heart complaint. He had checked in as a patient under a false name after collapsing. Nurses reported him to police after recognising him from newspaper pictures.

An inquiry is under way at Broadmoor into the circumstances of his disappearance. And yesterday the Prison Officers' Association renewed its call for a public inquiry into security at special hospitals.

In a letter to Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, and Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, Brian Caton, the POA's vice-chairman, said: 'Our belief is that security within special hospitals is virtually non-existent.'

He claimed the Special Hospitals Service Authority was risking the safety of staff and the well-being of the public under the guise of rehabilitation.

'It is quite clear that the assessments in relation to a properly co-ordinated and structured programme of rehabilitation currently in place are at the best inadequate and at the worst downright dangerous,' Mr Caton said.

Commenting on the Pilditch incident and another brief escape from Broadmoor last week, he said: 'Our membership throughout special hospitals and the prison service are pleased that both patients are now back in custody but cannot accept that these incidents can or should be allowed to go unexplored.'

Yesterday police were trying to piece together Pilditch's movements during his week on the run. They appealed to a prostitute and a taxi driver who spent time with the rapist while he was free.

Detectives said he had ordered a taxi and driven around London, picked up a prostitute and taken her back to his hotel room. She was not believed to be harmed. Chief Inspector Charles Nelson, who interviewed Pilditch early yesterday, said: 'It would appear that he has been in London for the whole week.'

He said Pilditch had slipped away from two Broadmoor nurses during lunch at the George Hotel, Reading, and bought a cap and raincoat from a nearby department store. He then bought a newspaper and boarded a train to Paddington, west London.

'We believe he stayed in a hotel in London for Wednesday and Thursday night, although at this stage we do not know which hotel. He checked in under the name of Andrew Stone. He then moved from there to a hotel in Cricklewood and stayed there Saturday and Sunday night. On Monday he collapsed and was taken to the Royal Free Hospital,' Ch Insp Nelson said.