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The BBC's Claire Smith
"A patient in the personality disorder unit had begun tunnelling through a wall"
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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 20:07 GMT 21:07 UK
Escape foiled at top-security hospital
Ashworth Hospital
Millions have been spent on security at Ashworth
Staff at Ashworth top-security hospital in Merseyside have foiled an attempt by a patient to tunnel his way out.

The man had spent five days attempting to tunnel through a wall using a digging tool which he had made in a rehabilitation class.

He also made a 175-foot rope out of sheets before his escape bid was discovered on Tuesday of last week.

A hole, said to be half-an-inch deep and some seven inches in diameter, was discovered in the plaster of a library wall at the hospital's north site.

A hospital spokeswoman said the hole was hidden by books but did not penetrate the brickwork.

Security searches

The top security hospital, which houses Moors Murderer Ian Brady, is treating the incident as 'category A' security breach, the most serious such category.

The spokeswoman said the escape bid had been foiled because of good intelligence by staff.

"We are a high security hospital and there are systems in place to prevent an incident such as this," she said.

"Random and routine security tests are carried out on patients and patients' areas."

General concerns about security at the hospital were reportedly raised with government minister Paul Boateng some days before the incident was discovered.

An outside expert who works with Ashworth reportedly wrote to Mr Boateng because she was so concerned about a reduction in search teams.

The woman, who has not been named, said that staff were moved from search duties to patrolling building works at the hospital.

Shocking revelations

She raised her concerns with Mr Boateng because he has a special interest in the high security hospital.

The Fallon Report published in 1999 recommended that Ashworth should close after it revealed shocking revelations.

Among the most shocking uncovered by the report was the case of an eight-year-old girl who had been allowed unsupervised contact with patients who had a record of child abuse.

The government rejected the closure calls and an action plan was implemented to tackle the problems.

A 35m refurbishment of security at the hospital has also recently taken place.

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Shut down secure hospitals, MPs say
09 Feb 00 | Health
Ashworth Hospital boss to leave
12 Jan 99 | Health
Ashworth: A catalogue of shame
15 Jan 99 | Health
Last chance for Ashworth
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