PRISONERS who escaped a crisis-hit jail by sawing through a metal bar, clambering over the roof and swinging round a CCTV pole on a bed sheet will have to spend even longer behind bars.

Prolific burglar James Whitlock, 32, who was born and grew up in Walton and also has connections to Dunmow, and violent thug Matthew Baker, 29, went on the run in November last year after breaking out of HMP Pentonville.

Staff at the jail did not realise they were gone until 15 hours after they were last seen in their cell.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard the prison break came just two weeks after Whitlock witnessed another inmate being murdered at the prison, while there was a culture of warring gangs and widespread dropping of drugs, weapons and phones over the walls using drones.

The pair had previously admitted breaking prison and Whitlock was handed an extra two years in jail while Baker was given another 30 months.

Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting said:” On Sunday November 6, Baker together with James Whitlock were locked up in cell G5-28 on G wing in HMP Pentonville.

“At around 8pm a count took place. Both Baker and Whitlock were in their cell.

“The following morning at around 11am officers went to unlock G5-28.

“The door had been barricaded from the inside.

“Eventually entry was gained.

“Neither Whitlock nor Baker were there.

“One of the bars to the cell had been cut open.

“Body-shaped items had been created under the sheets from clothes, bedding and food so that anyone looking through the observation hatch would have thought that both men were sleeping.”

Mr Polnay said the cellmates must have had outside help to smuggle in the kit to cut the bars, and they made their escape across the prison roof before tying a bed sheet to a CCTV camera pole and swinging over the wall onto a flat roof.

Whitlock, who previously escaped from HMP Edmunds Hill, Stradishall, Suffolk, in July 2010, was found after six days on the run in east London.

Baker was found after two days at his sister’s home in Ilford having dyed his hair. He had suffered a fractured leg during the escape.

Whitlock, who is serving 54 months for conspiracy to burgle, had previous convictions for burglary and theft as well as one offence of escaping lawful custody.

Baker had a string of convictions for violent offences including assaulting a police officer and is already serving a minimum term of 10 years.

Julia Flanagan, mitigating for Whitlock, said: “It was wrong what he did.

“He could not see any other way to help himself other than to go.

“He deeply regrets that now.”

Sentencing the pair, Judge Jane Sullivan said: “Although there had been significant violence at Pentonville including a murder on October 18 that in no way justifies the action you each took in breaking out of the prison.

“If you had any real fear for your safety you did not complain about it to anyone.”

Baker’s girlfriend Chelsea Gibson, 25, of Bow, east London, pleaded guilty to assisting an offender while his sister Kelly Baker, 22, of Ilford, admitted harbouring an escaped prisoner. They will be sentenced on a later date.