By Joe Dalton, Senior Crime Correspondent
Police are hunting two prisoners who escaped from a G4S security van which was ambushed by an armed gang in Salford on Monday morning.
It is thought a Manchester gang orchestrated the ambush to free the two 25-year-old men, named as Kirk Bradley and Tony Downes, who were en route to Liverpool Crown Court from Strangeways Prison.
The van was halted on Trinity Way shortly after 8.30am after being rammed by a black Saab estate. Three masked men then jumped out brandishing a gun and sledgehammer.
One security guard pressed a button to release the prisoners from the back of the van after the driver was held at gun point and one guard was attacked.
The gang and prisoners fled in the Saab which was later found abandoned in Barrow Street, in the Islington area of Salford.
It is understood they then switched to a white Ford Transit van to complete their escape though this has yet to be traced.
The local knowledge exhibited in the gang’s escape has led police to explore the possibility they are Manchester-based criminals who were hired to spring the prisoners.
The G4S security van had no police escort accompanying it though a GMP spokesperson said that police are not responsible for transporting prisoners to court and would only do so in special cases.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police, who are leading the search, said: “Officers are appealing for the public’s assistance in tracing these two offenders, but would urge anyone who knows of their whereabouts not to approach the pair.”
Ports and airports have been put on alert for the two fugitives as police fear they intend to flee the country.
Bradley and Downes are accused, along with four others, of plotting a two-year campaign of violence involving guns and grenades against their underworld rivals in Merseyside.
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 872 5050 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.