Questions raised over Pentonville Prison’s future after embarrassing prisoner escape

Pentonville Prison’s future as a high security jail has been questioned following the escape of a dangerous murderer last week.

As an inquiry into how 64-year-old John Massey managed to jump the walls of the prison gets under way, Caledonian ward councillor Paul Convery, also the council’s crime chief, said the facility has “had its time” locking up some of Britain’s most feared villains.

Massey, who was sentenced to life in 1976 for killing a bouncer in Hackney with a sawn-off shotgun, reportedly used a makeshift rope of sheets to scale the walls of the Victorian prison in Caledonian Road, Holloway, on Wednesday.

After a nationwide manhunt in which the public was warned not to approach him, he was captured at an address in Kent on Friday.

Another man was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting an absconder.


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Cllr Convery said: “Quite how a man in his mid-60s legged it up over a wall and back down using a makeshift rope, I don’t know. There must be some very red faces in the prison service.

“It is a very old prison and a very old building under constant modernisation to keep it fit for purpose, and my personal feeling is that it has had its time as a high security prison.

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‘‘It’s about time we had a proper conversation about its future.”

He continued: “People living close to the prison were disconcerted and very troubled. If you look at the old ordnance survey maps covering Pentonville Prison, it’s just this completely blank area in our neighbourhood and a lot of the time that’s exactly what it feels like to those living around it.

“It takes something like this to remind us that 1,400 quite dangerous people are locked up in there.”

It’s the third time Massey, who was also convicted of attempting to shoot at a policeman from his Aston Martin getaway car, has broken out of jail, and he has become one of the country’s longest serving prisoners because of his repeated escapes.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice could not comment any further other than to confirm an investigation had been launched.

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