COPS hunting escaped terror suspect Daniel Khalife sealed off a huge London park last night – as two helicopters circled overhead.
The manhunt appeared to narrow around 40 hours after ex-soldier Khalife, 21, fled HMP Wandsworth wearing his chef’s uniform on Wednesday morning.
Late last night officers were seen guarding every entrance to 2,400-acre Richmond Park, in South-West London.
Police vehicles raced around surrounding roads as choppers circled over the royal park and nearby Wimbledon Common.
A source confirmed to The Sun that the huge police activity around Richmond Park was linked to the ongoing hunt for Khalife.
One onlooker said: “There are so many police involved. It’s a huge operation – they must have a good reason to think he might be in there.”
The park is just over two miles from where cops swooped on the delivery van thought to have carried Khalife out of HMP Wandsworth.
He was nowhere to be seen by the time officers tracked the lorry to Upper Richmond Road in Putney.
And the Kingston flat where Khalife grew up is close to the other side the park, London’s biggest.
Khalife’s mother and twin sister are understood to have lived there until a few years ago.
A neighbour told The Daily Telegraph: “A woman lived upstairs who had a son and daughter. The boy would come and go swearing loudly.
“She moved to Wales roughly three years ago – a year after we moved in.
“The family were British, of Middle Eastern origin. They didn’t talk to us or anyone else in the street very much that I could see.
“It’s worrying to think that this young man might head back to this area after escaping from prison.”
The hunt for Khalife had already sparked chaos nationwide – with additional security checks at Dover causing gridlock.
Airports and ports were placed on high alert as anti-terror police scrambled to stop the prisoner leaving the UK.
Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s counterterrorism control, said earlier: “It’s absolutely possible …he has already left the country.
“There’s been a huge effort in borders around the country trying to identify if he has already left.
“We believe him to be here, but we keep an open mind.”
Questions are now mounting over Khalife’s escape plot after it emerged staff waited an hour to alert police that he was missing.
Khalife fled in a chef’s uniform of a white T-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel toecap boots.
He is thought to have used makeshift straps to attach himself to the truck as it was waved out of the notorious Victorian lock-up.
The van left Wandsworth Prison at 7.32am, taking a right turn out of gates onto Heathfield Road.
It then turned left onto Magdalen Road and left again onto Trinity Road (A214) up to the Wandsworth Roundabout – taking the first exit onto Swandon Way (A217).
It then turned left onto Old York Road past Wandsworth Town station then left onto Fairfield Street, and right onto Wandsworth High Street (A3).
It stayed straight ahead onto West Hill and then on to Upper Richmond Road (A205).
The van was stopped by cops chasing Khalife at 8.37am – over an hour after Khalife was declared missing at 7.50am.
Prison officers did not notify cops about his escape until 8.15am.
The ex-soldier, who is accused of planting fake bombs at a UK military base, had reportedly tried to make a previous bid for freedom.
Despite this he was allowed to work in the kitchen, where he served breakfast to lags before ducking unseen into a service yard.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk revealed a probe will be launched into the prison as he made a speech in the House of Commons yesterday.
An additional independent investigation will also take place in the future.
Khalife, who was attached to the Royal Signal Corps before being discharged, is currently awaiting trial for terrorism offences.
He is accused of leaving fake bombs at an RAF base in January.
He vanished for more than three weeks after the bomb hoax before being arrested on January 26.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard he left the device “with the intention of inducing in another the belief the item was likely to explode or ignite”.
Another charge, under the Official Secrets Act, alleges Khalife collected personal information about soldiers from an MoD computer system that could be useful to an enemy.
He was being held on remand at Wandsworth prison and was due to stand trial on November 20.