A MAJOR hunt is underway to find an escaped prisoner who is known to have connections to Hampshire.

Dean Hammond has been on the run since disappearing from HMP Leyhill on Tuesday.

He is understood to have been at the open prison as he was prepared to be released back into the community, having been in jail since 2006.

He had been locked up by a Southampton judge indefinitely for making threats to kill and being in possession of an offensive weapon.

The Daily Echo reported at the time how he had gone to a house in Netley View where he threatened a woman, who was holding her then 10-month-old daughter, that he was going to knife her partner.

He revealed a 10-inch blade which was tucked inside his trousers and hidden under his t-shirt.

Hammond, now 32, was reported missing late on Tuesday this week.

Now Avon and Somerset and Hampshire Police are asking for the public's help to locate him - and are urging people not to approach him but call 999.

Hammond is described as a white man, 6ft tall, with a stocky build and dark shaved hair. He has numerous tattoos on his arms and chest.

Detective Constable Nadine Partridge said: "Since Dean Hammond was reported missing we have been conducting enquiries to locate him and return him to custody. He has connections to the Southampton area and it is possible he may return there. I would appeal to anyone who has seen him to contact us immediately.

"We are committed to locating, returning to custody and charging anyone unlawfully at large. We work closely with HMP Leyhill and other police forces to track down absconders promptly and keep any potential risk to the public to a minimum.

HM Prison Service said: "Over 96 per cent of prisoners who abscond are recaptured and returned to custody. On recapture the prisoner is returned to a closed prison.

"Leyhill has a special function in preparing life sentence prisoners for release before their return to the community. The prison works in partnership with learning and skills providers on education programmes designed to reduce re-offending on release, including work and training placements within the community."

Anyone who has seen Dean Hammond should call 999.