THE hunt is on for a violent burglar who has escaped prison – and officers have warned he could be in Southampton.

Jack Murray was part of a gang who burst into the home of a watch repairer in Bitterne and threatened to “slit his throat from ear-to-ear” if he didn’t do as they said.

Murray was jailed for 11 years in 2015.

But yesterday police announced that Murray, 32, had absconded from Springhill open prison in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire.

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Officers say Murray is known to have links to the Southampton and Poole areas.

Detective Sergeant Dale Price, from Thames Valley Police, said: “If you see anyone that you think could be Jack please get in touch immediately.

“We would urge members of the public not to approach him directly, just call us on 999.”

A Prison Service spokesperson added: “Public protection is our absolute priority.

“We are clear that those who do abscond face tough consequences, including being returned to closed prison conditions where they will have to serve additional time.”

Murray was one of three men involved in an aggravated burglary at a home in Bitterne.

His victim was at home when the back door suddenly flew open, and the trio, wearing balaclavas, burst in.

Armed with a crowbar, the gang told their victim to hand over his valuable Rolex watch with the warning he would not be hurt if he did not struggle.

But when the man did struggle, the group subjected him to what prosecutor Jodie Mittell described during Murray’s trial as a “nasty and brutal assault”.

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The trio hit him with a crowbar and held a kitchen knife to his neck.

Murray was hunted by the police for 19 months before being arrested in his car.

He was also previously wanted for a series of “extremely violent” burglaries in 2012.

Murray pleaded not guilty to the aggravated burglary in Bitterne, claiming he had played no part in the crime.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ralls QC said it was a despicable crime.

He jailed Murray for 11 years, accomplice Joseph Flaherty for 10 years and Nathan Arcon for seven.

Murray later attempted to appeal his sentence, claiming a medical condition made him “too sweaty” to get a fair trial.

The appeal was refused.

Commenting on the news Murray had absconded, Itchen MP Royston Smith said: “If he is out and he has a violent past then people should not try to approach him and contact police.

“I hope they find him quickly and return him and no doubt put a bit more on his sentence for his troubles.”