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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 July 2006, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
Police hunt missing sex offenders
Martin Aspinall (left) and John Elms
Police say Aspinall (left) and Elms should not be approached
Two sex offenders jailed for raping children have gone on the run from an open prison in south Wales.

John Elms, 34, was at Prescoed Prison, in Monmouthshire, after being sentenced to life at the Old Bailey in 1996 for the rape of a 15-year-old girl.

Martin Aspinall, 46, was sentenced to life in 1992 at Preston Crown Court for the rape of a five-year-old girl.

Police said the men could be a danger to the public and the Prison Service said it would launch an investigation.

The two men walked out of the prison between 1700 BST and 2000 BST on Friday.

Specialist search officers, police dogs and the Gwent Police helicopter were being used in the search for them, co-ordinated by a team of 30 Pontypool-based officers.

Clothing find

Officers are also making inquiries with other forces in an attempt to trace the two men and have also been speaking to other inmates about the pair's disappearance.

Supt Simon Prince, of Gwent Police, said: "It's a priority for us to locate and detain these individuals as quickly as possible."

He added that the men knew each other and were noticed to be missing at the same time.

Police said on Saturday they had found a pile of clothing in a wooded area not far from Prescoed, which they believe belonged to the men.

HM Prison Prescoed
The men absconded from Prescoed open prison

Elms is said to have contacts in Hampshire and London.

He is described as 1.6m tall with an oval face, blue eyes and tattoos on his left arm and on his legs.

And he could be wearing a brown jumper and blue Next jeans.

Aspinall, who is thought to have contacts in Lancashire and Bolton, is reported to be 1.75m tall, of medium build, with blue eyes.

He could be wearing a blue Ben Sherman T-shirt and blue jogging bottoms.

'Own key'

Prescoed prison, with an operational capacity of 170, was built in the 1930s.

Offenders are sent there while they are being rehabilitated before release.

The Prison Service website says "each inmate has [their] own room key" at Prescoed.

The incident is the latest in several cases where inmates have absconded.

Local Conservative MP David Davies said: "This has happened half-a-dozen times since the policy of putting dangerous paedophiles into an open prison was instigated.

'Protect public'

"I think the governor and the government should apologise about this policy. They have got it wrong."

Gwent Police said the two men were classed as Category B prisoners and no decision had been made over when they were going to be released.

In a statement, a Prison Service spokesperson said: "Any abscond is a matter of urgent concern and the circumstances surrounding this incident will be thoroughly investigated.

"We aim to protect the public by ensuring prisoners are well prepared to return to the community and open conditions are an important part of that process."

See a police helicopter hovering above Prescoed

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