Sighting of on the run armed robber Michael Wheatley in Twickenham

Daily Echo: CCTV of Wheatley during his raid on the Bishop's Waltham building society in 2002. CCTV of Wheatley during his raid on the Bishop's Waltham building society in 2002.

The manhunt for the violent armed robber dubbed "the Skull Cracker" has been stepped up after he was spotted last night.

Michael Wheatley was seen at an address in Twickenham in London at 8pm last night.

When police arrived the 55-year-old fugitive had disappeared.

Today the Metropolitan Police issued a warning to residents in the area not to approach him.

The sighting comes as the Prison Minister reveals that review will take place after Wheatley, who terrorised a Hampshire bank worker, went missing after temporarily being allowed out of jaild.

Wheatley who was given 13 life sentences in 2002 for a string of brutal raids on banks, failed to return to HMP Standford Hill open prison on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Wheatley raided 13 building societies and banks over 10 months in 2001 and 2002 while on parole from a 27-year sentence for other robberies.

He earned his nickname after pistol-whipping victims, including a 73-year-old woman, during the raids.

Wheatley pushed a gun into Kathleen Knights’ face as he robbed a branch of Halifax in Bishop’s Waltham where she was a clerk.

As he made his escape with an undisclosed amount of cash, Wheatley hit her on the head with his imitation weapon.

Daily Echo:

Today Mrs Knights (above) is reliving her ordeal as Wheatley remains on the run having failed to return to the open prison where he was being held.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said there will be a full review of the case, including an assessment of the release on temporary licence (ROTL) process.

Mr Wright said temporary licence can be an important tool to help offenders reintegrate into communities but that ''it should not be an automatic right''.

Ministers have said there will be a toughening up of the licence scheme so that prisoners are subjected to stricter risk assessments and tagged.

Mr Wright said: ''We are not prepared to see public safety compromised, the system has been too lax up to now and we are changing that.

''In future when prisoners are let out on temporary licence they will be tagged, more strictly risk assessed and tested in the community under strict conditions before being released.

''Temporary release can be an important tool in helping offenders reintegrate but it should not be an automatic right.

''There will be a full review of this case which will look at the ROTL process.''

Conservative backbencher Philip Davies said that whoever had allowed Wheatley out of prison was ''a berk'' and questioned why he was in an open prison in the first place.

The MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire said: ''It is completely ludicrous that a serving life sentence prisoner is even in an open prison where they can simply walk out.

''As far as I am concerned whoever allowed him to be in an open prison should be sacked, it is a complete disgrace.

''The top priority for the prison service should be the protection of the public. (Justice Secretary) Chris Grayling needs to put in charge of the prison service someone who will see protection of the public as a top priority.''

Kent Police has urged members not to approach Wheatley if he is spotted, but to dial 999 instead.

A police spokesman said Wheatley, originally of Limehouse in east London, has links across south east England.

Daily Echo:

Wheatley (above) admitted 13 charges of robbery and 13 of possessing an imitation firearm - a blank firing semi-automatic pistol - in October 2002.

The robberies between June 2001 and April the following year were mainly on small branches in areas Wheatley knew, ranging from Southampton in Hampshire to Royston in Hertfordshire.

The first was just three weeks after he was paroled from his first prison term.

As the robberies continued, so did the violence he used towards staff and customers.

In March 2002 he pistol whipped a 73-year-old woman and a building society manager.

The Old Bailey heard at the time he would often grab a female customer, putting the pistol to their head, leaving many mentally anguished.

His raids netted him more than £45,000.

He was given a five-year sentence on each of the firearm offences to run concurrently with the life sentences on each of the robbery charges. He was ordered to serve a minimum of eight years before being eligible for consideration for parole.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: ''Of course there should be a review into any breach of safety and security but, to put things in perspective, government figures show the main lessons to learn from open prisons are that the Prison Service has achieved a year-on-year reduction in absconds and that release on ROTL has succeeded in significantly reducing the risk of re-offending.''

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told BBC Breakfast: ''What I want to know and what I will be checking very hard is what risk assessments were done to actually let him out on temporary licence.

''We have had a number of incidents in the last few months of prisoners being let out on temporary licence disappearing or doing serious things.

''We are right in the middle of changing the system, so that in future, when the technology is available later this year, these prisoners will be tagged if they are released.

''But I am not happy about what has happened and I want an answer.''

Comments (10)

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7:40am Tue 6 May 14

learned more from a 2 minute record than ever learned in school says...

Life should mean life especially after he was given not 1 but 13 ife sentances ! Who in there right mind let him go to open prison the day release ,This person should be sacked !
Life should mean life especially after he was given not 1 but 13 ife sentances ! Who in there right mind let him go to open prison the day release ,This person should be sacked ! learned more from a 2 minute record than ever learned in school
  • Score: 41

9:00am Tue 6 May 14

hulla baloo says...

On parole from a 27 year sentence ( wonder how little of that was served) and in an open prison despite given 13 life sentences.
Execute this scum and prevent him causing any more bother.
On parole from a 27 year sentence ( wonder how little of that was served) and in an open prison despite given 13 life sentences. Execute this scum and prevent him causing any more bother. hulla baloo
  • Score: 15

9:21am Tue 6 May 14

userds5050 says...

hulla baloo wrote:
On parole from a 27 year sentence ( wonder how little of that was served) and in an open prison despite given 13 life sentences.
Execute this scum and prevent him causing any more bother.
12 years. Don't think all of that was served in an open prison. He's been eligible for parole for 4. He could have been released and the public wouldn't know.
[quote][p][bold]hulla baloo[/bold] wrote: On parole from a 27 year sentence ( wonder how little of that was served) and in an open prison despite given 13 life sentences. Execute this scum and prevent him causing any more bother.[/p][/quote]12 years. Don't think all of that was served in an open prison. He's been eligible for parole for 4. He could have been released and the public wouldn't know. userds5050
  • Score: 3

9:47am Tue 6 May 14

snarf72 says...

Why on Earth was he in a Open Prison, 13 life sentences and he is free to roam what on earth did the Authorities think he would do,It really beggars belief,Monkeys would be better running the System,When he kills again i hope whoever let him have this freedom is held responsible .
Why on Earth was he in a Open Prison, 13 life sentences and he is free to roam what on earth did the Authorities think he would do,It really beggars belief,Monkeys would be better running the System,When he kills again i hope whoever let him have this freedom is held responsible . snarf72
  • Score: 6

9:47am Tue 6 May 14

philiprhampton says...

The mind boggles, these so called decision makers on their fantastic sallaries couldn't run a pissup in a brewery, sack the **** and employ someone who has an ounce of intelligence.
The mind boggles, these so called decision makers on their fantastic sallaries couldn't run a pissup in a brewery, sack the **** and employ someone who has an ounce of intelligence. philiprhampton
  • Score: 4

10:51am Tue 6 May 14

Kirsty666 says...

I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole.
What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too.
I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole. What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too. Kirsty666
  • Score: 5

12:58pm Tue 6 May 14

Georgethepie says...

Bring back the death penalty....... No wait the poor little thing has rights'
Never mind the rights of his victims..... When will people learn scum like this has no place in the outside world and all the rehab in that world won't change a thing. Bring back hanging
Bring back the death penalty....... No wait the poor little thing has rights' Never mind the rights of his victims..... When will people learn scum like this has no place in the outside world and all the rehab in that world won't change a thing. Bring back hanging Georgethepie
  • Score: 1

2:38pm Tue 6 May 14

userds5050 says...

Kirsty666 wrote:
I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole.
What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too.
They're only going on the sentencing guidelines given to them by the CPS.
People read the headline "life sentence" and say "what's he doing out?" But there are different types of life sentence, in this case a discretionary life sentence, the judge passes down a minimum number of years they must spend in jail. 8 years in this case. It is then up to the parole board to decide if the should be released. Once released they will then spend the rest of their life on licence and can be sent back to prison at any time.
[quote][p][bold]Kirsty666[/bold] wrote: I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole. What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too.[/p][/quote]They're only going on the sentencing guidelines given to them by the CPS. People read the headline "life sentence" and say "what's he doing out?" But there are different types of life sentence, in this case a discretionary life sentence, the judge passes down a minimum number of years they must spend in jail. 8 years in this case. It is then up to the parole board to decide if the should be released. Once released they will then spend the rest of their life on licence and can be sent back to prison at any time. userds5050
  • Score: -2

2:45pm Tue 6 May 14

IronLady2010 says...

userds5050 wrote:
Kirsty666 wrote:
I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole.
What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too.
They're only going on the sentencing guidelines given to them by the CPS.
People read the headline "life sentence" and say "what's he doing out?" But there are different types of life sentence, in this case a discretionary life sentence, the judge passes down a minimum number of years they must spend in jail. 8 years in this case. It is then up to the parole board to decide if the should be released. Once released they will then spend the rest of their life on licence and can be sent back to prison at any time.
What you state is correct.

But, as time has gone on since these rules were introduced, the criminal element is increasing.

Surely it's time to look at these Laws and sentencing procedures and adapt them. Until we toughen up the criminals are just laughing at the system.

Back the 70's 80's bobbys could walk around alone, these days in some areas they have to round in pairs. Society has changed and the Law needs to change with it.
[quote][p][bold]userds5050[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Kirsty666[/bold] wrote: I'd love to meet the parole board that granted his parole. What were they thinking the best place for him is under lock and key never to see the light of day again and that goes for murderers and rapists too.[/p][/quote]They're only going on the sentencing guidelines given to them by the CPS. People read the headline "life sentence" and say "what's he doing out?" But there are different types of life sentence, in this case a discretionary life sentence, the judge passes down a minimum number of years they must spend in jail. 8 years in this case. It is then up to the parole board to decide if the should be released. Once released they will then spend the rest of their life on licence and can be sent back to prison at any time.[/p][/quote]What you state is correct. But, as time has gone on since these rules were introduced, the criminal element is increasing. Surely it's time to look at these Laws and sentencing procedures and adapt them. Until we toughen up the criminals are just laughing at the system. Back the 70's 80's bobbys could walk around alone, these days in some areas they have to round in pairs. Society has changed and the Law needs to change with it. IronLady2010
  • Score: 3

7:13pm Tue 6 May 14

Turtlebay says...

Word missing in this sentence "When police arrived the 55-year-old fugitive had disappeared." When police EVENTUALLY arrived the 55-year-old fugitive had disappeared!
Word missing in this sentence "When police arrived the 55-year-old fugitive had disappeared." When police EVENTUALLY arrived the 55-year-old fugitive had disappeared! Turtlebay
  • Score: 1

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