PRISON chiefs face a £1million bill after a locksmith was arrested over fears jail keys had been copied and flogged to lags.
HMP Wandsworth — one of the biggest jails in Western Europe — called in the police after the alarm was raised.
Bosses have now been forced to order replacements for every one of the jail’s 3,000 keys to rule out any escape risk.
Last night officials stressed that cops had “not yet” found evidence that copied keys were held by any of the 1,400 inmates.
But a source said: “It’s a huge scandal. When something like this happens you can’t take any risks — every single lock has to be changed.
“In a prison of Wandsworth’s size you’re talking thousands of locks. Governors are livid.”
Police were called to the category B jail in South West London on Friday September 13.
They arrested a locksmith working for Government Facility Services Ltd, which provides services to 52 jails across the South of England.
The source added: “There’s a suggestion imprints of keys may have been taken in clay before copies were made.
“You’ve got serious people in Wandsworth like sex offenders and violent cons.
“The thought of them having accessing to keys doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Locks at risk are believed to include those on cell doors, internal control doors and outer ones.
In 2006, Feltham Young Offenders Institute in West London was forced to change all of of its locks after a prison officer’s keys were broadcast on TV.
All 3,200 keys were replaced. At the time, locksmiths estimated the cost of each new one to be around £100 — £1.1million in total.
HMP Wandsworth played host to one of the most infamous escapes when Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs used a rope ladder to scale the outer wall from the exercise yard in July 1965.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “HMP Wandsworth has increased security at the gate and is operating extra identity checks.
MOST READ IN UK NEWS
“It would be inappropriate to comment further while a police investigation is ongoing.”
A police spokeswoman said: “A 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office following a criminal allegation.
“He has been released under investigation pending further inquiries.”
- GOT a story? Ring The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or email [email protected].