UK & World News

  • 6 May 2014, 16:37

Escaped 'Skull Cracker' Armed Robber Sighting

A reported sighting of an escaped armed robber known as the "Skull Cracker" has been made in London, police have said.

Officers were called to an address in Twickenham shortly before 8pm on Monday, following a sighting of Michael Wheatley, who earned his nickname for pistol-whipping victims.

Police searched the area but did not find the 55-year-old, who is the subject of a major manhunt.

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

A full review has been ordered into prison security after the criminal went on the run.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told Sky News he was unhappy with the system for releasing prisoners on temporary licence, and changes were being made, including tighter risk assessments, and tagging of prisoners.

He said: "I am carrying out a full inquiry into the circumstances of the case.

"Every situation like this is unacceptable."

Mr Grayling added: "All efforts will be put in to try and get him back. He will now be in prison for some considerable amount of time.

"And of course I am now changing the system so that people like him will be under much tighter controls in future."

Conservative backbencher Philip Davies said whoever allowed Wheatley out of prison is "a berk" and should be sacked.

Kent Police have urged the public not to approach Wheatley, but to dial 999.

Wheatley carried out 13 raids between June 2001 and April 2002 in bank branches from Southampton in Hampshire to Royston in Hertfordshire.

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

Advertisement