Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Monday, 3 May 2010 13:33 UK

Prisoner cuts off ear in escape bid

Michael O'Donnell, escaped prisoner
Michael O'Donnell was convicted of being part of a robbery plot

A prisoner had part of his ear cut off in a "calculated" sequence of events so he could escape from an ambulance in Greater Manchester, police have said.

Michael O'Donnell, who had been sharing a cell with his brother, is on the run from HMP Salford after his ambulance was held up by masked men on Sunday.

Greater Manchester Police believe either the 28-year-old or his brother hacked off part of his left ear.

A police spokesman said it was "calculated on O'Donnell's behalf".

Shortly after 0130 BST on Sunday, O'Donnell, who was awaiting sentence after being convicted of a robbery plot, told prison staff he had sustained an injury in his cell.

'Terrifying attack'

Police said part of his left ear had been cut off, but there was no suggestion he had been attacked.

He was being taken to Hope Hospital by ambulance when a stolen BMW pulled in front of it, forcing it to stop on Agecroft Road.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins explains how O'Donnell escaped

Four masked men then attacked the vehicle with baseball bats and bolt cutters and O'Donnell, who was escorted by three prison guards, escaped.

The BMW, which had been stolen in a burglary on 30 April in Levenshulme, was later found abandoned near to Lumbs Lane.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: "Officers from the major incident team, who usually investigate murders, are working round the clock now following up a number of lines of inquiry to try and find Michael O'Donnell, but we need your help in finding him.

"This was a terrifying attack on an ambulance and, though nobody was physically harmed, it certainly left the people who were looking after O'Donnell at that time feeling understandably frightened.

"O'Donnell had been warned by a judge that he was facing a long prison sentence.

"He needs to be caught and put back where he belongs.

"I would warn anyone who knows of his whereabouts or who sees him not to approach him, but to call 999 immediately.

"O'Donnell could be anywhere, but he does have links to Stockport and south Manchester and may have links to the travelling community."

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