An international manhunt is now underway for a murderer who escaped custody during a hospital visit conducted with “woefully inadequate escort arrangements”.
Shaun Walmsley has been on the run since about 3.05pm on Tuesday when he was freed by two armed men who ambushed prison officers outside Aintree University Hospital.
Walmsley was attending the Liverpool hospital for an appointment and is believed to have been transported there in a taxi.
Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, is demanding an urgent investigation into why a violent murderer “was considered worthy of such woefully inadequate escort arrangements”.
Anderson has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd over the security arrangements and concerns the prisoner was “gifted the opportunity to abscond in the manner he did”.
Walmsley escaped in a gold Volvo (S60), registration MW02 XHE, that was sold, but not re-registered, in recent months.
Neither of the prison guards who were transporting the 28-year-old were physically injured during the incident.
Detectives are appealing for witnesses who saw the car, which was sold about two months ago, to come forward.
Detective Superintendent Natalie Perischine said: “We are particularly interested in speaking to anyone who may have seen the Gold Volvo used in the incident. We believe it was in the Adlam Crescent area from around noon yesterday and then was abandoned soon after the incident in Adlam Crescent.
“We would appeal to anyone who saw the car being abandoned to come forward as they could have vital information for our investigation.”
She added: “As I have previously stated, Shaun Walmsley and the two others involved in the incident yesterday are dangerous individuals and we will be relentless in our pursuit them.
“We have put significant resources into this investigation to put Walmsley back behind bars and officers and staff are working hard with other forces, the National Crime Agency and other forces and agencies on the continent in a bid to trace him.
“My message is clear, we will not rest until Walmsley is back behind bars, and the two offenders who orchestrated yesterday’s incident are put before the courts.”
Walmsley is described as white, 6ft tall and of slim build with dark brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing dark bottoms and a dark jacket.
The first man involved in his escape, who was believed to be armed with a gun, had his face covered. He was wearing white shoes, grey tracksuit bottoms with a stripe down each side, a grey hoody and a dark coat.
The second man, who was believed to be armed with a knife, is described as also having his face covered and he was wearing a green coat, dark Nike trainers and grey tracksuit bottoms.
Police patrols attended the hospital immediately after Walmsley’s escape, and an extensive search of the area is underway. CCTV footage is also being sought.
Walmsley was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2015 for the murder of drugs rival Anthony Duffy.
Detective Superintendent Natalie Perischine, said: “Walmsely is a highly dangerous individual, who was convicted of a vicious and savage murder of 33-year-old Anthony Duffy, who was stabbed multiple times during the attack which robbed him of his life in 2014.
“He took the life of this young man in a frenzied attack and in doing so ruined the lives of his victim’s family and friends.
“We will be relentless in our pursuit of Walmsley and the men who helped him to escape and we need the public’s help to find him and put him back behind bars.”
Anderson’s letter to Rudd reads: “I am deeply concerned that the security arrangement in place for the prisoner’s hospital visit were spectacularly underestimated and utterly negligent.
“I am demanding from you that an urgent investigation take place into how it came about that Mr Walmsley was firstly allowed to communicate with accomplices on the outside and able to furnish them in advance with precise details of his movements and whereabouts, enabling them to plan their ambush.”
It continues: “I wish to know who was responsible for determining the level of security attached to this incident, as plainly, the outcome has shown a level of gross incompetence which frankly cannot go unpunished.”
Mike Rolfe, the national chair of the Prison Officers Association, said the escape was a “sad indictment” of government cuts to the prison service, the Guardian reported.
He said: “He would have been in a normal taxi, so we understand, going to hospital.
“Years ago, he would have been escorted by a prison secure van. The secure van would have been able to park directly at the entrance [and] that would have meant there would have been additional uniformed staff around.”
Police want anyone who has seen Walmsley, knows where he is, or anyone who saw this car in the area, to contact the police on 999, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Detectives advised the public not to approach the fugitive.