A prison van driver was threatened with a sawn-off shotgun and ordered to release a murder suspect from his cell, a court was told.
John Anslow – who is suspected of a Staffordshire murder – escaped from custody when travelling to Stafford Crown Court in January last year. Woolwich Crown Court heard the account of the day’s dramatic events from driver Warren Hall, a prison officer of 10 years’ experience.
Only moments before the escape Mr Hall’s fellow officer Julie Curran had joked with Anslow about him absconding.
At around 8.20am the van had just left HMP Hewell in Worcestershire.
Black Country man Mr Hall described how he first knew something was awry when he saw a Volkswagen Scirocco parked on chevrons in the middle of the road, which then began reversing into the van’s path.
Mr Hall told jurors yesterday: “I had to stop the vehicle as it blocked the road.
“I saw two men jump out with sledgehammers – one smashed the windscreen and one smashed my passenger window.”
Mr Hall said there were three attackers in total and they opened the door before telling him to give them his keys. “One appeared to have a sawn-off shotgun in a black bag,” he added. “He was pointing it towards me.
“I was dragged round the front of the vehicle and punched in the face. I was made to open the side door. John Anslow was standing there and jumped out. He ran towards the car.”
The court also heard a written statement from officer Julie Curran. Just before the escape Miss Curran’s suspicions had been raised by a line of questioning from a prisoner travelling in the van with her and Anslow.
She said: “He (the prisoner) said something which triggered me to say to Anslow ‘bloody hell John, you ain’t got nobody to hold this van up have you?’”
Her statement continued: “He said ‘open the door miss and let me go’. I was really panicking, I struggled to open his door.”
Tipton man Anslow, aged 33 – who later fled to Cyprus and has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to escape – then ran into the Scirocco which made off at high speed, the prosecution said. Six defendants, including Anslow’s partner Samantha Glover, are on trial for their alleged roles in the scheme.
Glover, 27, of Parkes Lane, Tipton, was also in Cyprus and was arrested on her return to the UK. As well as her, five others deny conspiracy to assist Anslow to escape – Robert Riddle, 41, of Flamborough Close, Birmingham, Craig Wright, 29, of no fixed address, Ben O’Reilly, 29 of Austin Croft, Birmingham, Stuart Reid, 52, of Church Lane, Coventry, and Daniel Morgan, 29, of Parkeston Crescent, Birmingham.
Last week Paul Cadby, 47, of Erdington, Birmingham, prisoner Luke Hazel, 24, Moysha Shepherd, 32, of Hamstead Road, Great Barr, and Ryan Powell, 21, of Ladywood, all pleaded guilty to the same charge.
The trial continues.