A prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public was on the run tonight after two prison officers were threatened at gunpoint, sources said.
Andrew Farndon, 26, was rumoured to have cut himself badly enough to be taken for treatment at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, where he was sprung by a waiting gunman.
Farndon was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP), and told he must serve at least two years, after being convicted of causing grievous bodily harm in 2007, it is understood.
Farndon was a category C prisoner, who was considered unlikely to make a determined escape attempt, it is understood.
The escape is the second in just a week, after an “extremely dangerous” category A prisoner, murder suspect John Anslow, was sprung from a prison van after it left Hewell Prison in Worcestershire.
Tonight, Suffolk Police said officers were contacted just after 6.50pm by staff at the hospital’s A&E department who reported they could see a man with a gun outside.
The prison officers, from nearby Highpoint Prison in Stradishall, called police moments later and said they had had a gun pulled on them by a man who had confronted them as they had arrived at the hospital.
A spokesman for Suffolk Police said: “Officers were contacted just after 6.50pm this evening, by staff at the Accident & Emergency (A&E) reception of the West Suffolk Hospital at Hardwick Lane in Bury St Edmunds who reported they could see a man with a gun outside the A&E department.
“They said the man was pointing the weapon at two prison officers.
“Moments later police received a second call from the prison officers, from HMP Highpoint, who said they had a gun pulled on them by a man who had confronted them as they had arrived at A&E with a prisoner who had been stabbed in an incident at the prison.”
Both the prisoner and the man with the gun then ran away across the car park.
Farndon is described as white with a shaved head, and was wearing a dark blue baseball cap and a light coloured jumper that was padded on the right side due to his injury.
The man with the gun is described as white, in his mid 40s, around 5ft 8ins tall and of stocky build. He possibly had a Scottish accent and was wearing a white top and blue jeans.
It is thought they may have escaped in a dark coloured car.
Police are searching the area and are liaising with other agencies and talking to witnesses.
Members of the public are advised not to approach either of the men but to call officers straight away.
No-one was hurt in the incident.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said it was a matter for the police, but a full Prison Service inquiry would follow.
It comes after Anslow became the first category A prisoner to escape in more than 17 years on Monday.
Three masked men ambushed the van taking him from the prison near Redditch to Stafford Crown Court, smashing its windows with sledgehammers and punching the driver.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke ordered an inquiry into how Anslow was able to escape from the prison van.
As a category A prisoner, the aim of his security conditions should have been to ensure that escape was impossible.
But instead of being transferred in a high-security prison service van with a police escort, Anslow was with other inmates in a van run by a private contractor.
An international manhunt has been launched, with police liaising with other UK forces, the UK Border Agency and foreign authorities. The search extends to all airports and railway stations.
Anslow, also known as Skitz, has strong connections across the country, including London, as well as overseas, police said.
A 44-year-old Tipton man arrested on Monday night on suspicion of helping Anslow to escape was released on bail pending further inquiries tonight, police said.