Two prisoners escape from Pentonville prison in London

Two prisoners, one of whom was recently found guilty of attempted murder, have escaped from Pentonville prison in London.

The fugitives, who reportedly fooled prison staff by leaving makeshift mannequins in their beds, were named by Scotland Yard as Matthew Baker, 28, convicted two weeks ago of attempted murder, and James Whitlock, 31, who was on remand after being charged with conspiracy to burgle cash machines.

It is understood the pair used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through their cell bars before scaling an outer perimeter wall. A male visitor to the prison, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was told the runaways had folded bedsheets into the shape of mannequins to fool staff into believing they were still asleep. A female visitor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said a prisoner had told her the two men escaped through a cell window on the fifth floor. She said it was rumoured they had used bedsheets to lower themselves down. She said: “They cut one of the bars and then they came down through the window. They are assuming that it was probably bedsheets and it was at night.”

It is assumed that the breakout happened during the night and the prison authorities only discovered the mannequins on Monday morning. The two escapees had been held in the same cell in Pentonville’s G wing.

Escapes from inside prisons have become extremely rare in recent years, with only two recorded in 2015-16 and no more than two being recorded in any financial year since 2007-08. But the Pentonville escape comes just two weeks after an escape from a prison in the north-west, adding to the deepening prisons crisis facing the justice secretary, Liz Truss.

The Prison Governors Association said the Pentonville escape marked a new low for the Prison Service as it was “an institutional failure in one of our most core functions – keeping prisoners in custody”.

“The old Victorian prisons are squalid and vermin-infested and governors do not have direct access to the funds to tackle it. Prison cells have been vandalised and prisoners have access to drugs and mobile phones, some delivered by drones,” the PGA said.